The Catch-All Charge That is Disorderly Conduct

We would like to believe that, if the need struck us, we could sing the entire soundtrack of The Sound of Music in the streets at two in the morning at the top of our lungs. At a glance, there should be nothing illegal about it. It is pretty wholesome show tunes, you have the right to free speech, and it’s not technically hurting anyone. So what is illegal about it? However, the truth is if you did this, you would probably be arrested under the catch-all charge of disorderly conduct as soon as someone decided to call the police.

The law defines disorderly conduct as any behavior that creates a threat to life or the safety of other people. Singing show tunes loudly on the street doesn’t technically fall into this definition, but if you are asked to stop, this is what you will be arrested for. It can be argued that it falls under this category because eventually a neighbor, sleep deprived and annoyed, will make a threat to your life and you are otherwise disturbing the peace of the streets.

Despite what its definition under the law says, a charge of disorderly conduct is a charge meant to punish you for obnoxious public behavior. The good news is that in most cases a disorderly conduct charge is a misdemeanor charge. You have to be very disorderly in your conduct for it to be raise to a felony level, by which point you will probably be charged with some more serious crime instead.

Disorderly conduct charges cover behavior including:

  • Disturbing the peace (which would include the above show tunes example or other instances like excessively yelling profanity)
  • Public intoxication
  • Loitering in certain no loitering areas or failing to leave when asked
  • Starting a fight without any actual assault, such as boisterously attempting to aggravate others into fighting

If a police officer is repeatedly asking you to stop, and you do not oblige, typically disorderly conduct will be the reason for the resulting arrest. If there is no more elevated crime to arrest you on, this is how police officers can still arrest you to help keep the peace of the streets by removing you from them. In many cases, if you were simply being obnoxious and not so much dangerous, you may simply receive a slap on the wrist in the form of a citation. However, if they choose to pursue legal action, you can face a $1,000 fine and/or 90 days in jail, a punishment typical of misdemeanor crimes.

The good news is that courts generally don’t take disorderly conduct charges very seriously, especially if you have a previously spotless criminal record. It is not uncommon for the right criminal defender to get the punishments dropped down to community service, a fine, and/or probation. However, that is only if the prosecutors are willing to take the case to court, and in many cases, the charges are so minor that prosecutors may not even want to waste the time and resources in doing so if the perpetrator is repentant.

If you have been singing show tunes in the street or have been charged for any other reason that resulted in disorderly conduct, contact us today. You need not let the case go through the court system when the right lawyer can argue the charges dismissed or otherwise argue the punishments down to the bare minimum. Let the Speas Law Firm help you deal with the charges so you don’t have to deal with the punishments of a catch-all charge that law enforcement officers use to keep the streets peaceful.