What Is Disorderly Conduct?
While most people have probably heard of disorderly conduct, many don’t understand the specific legal definition. Most states have disorderly conduct laws, barring citizens from being intoxicated in a public place, loitering in designated areas, or otherwise disturbing the peace. In some states, having an open container is enough to get someone charged with disorderly conduct. Other times, it may constitute behavior police deem to be violent or unruly.
According to California Penal Code 647, You Are Committing Disorderly Conduct If:
- You solicit anyone to engage in “lewd” or “dissolute” conduct in a public place.
- You agree to engage in “any act of prostitution.”
- You “accost” anyone in public “for the purpose of begging.”
- You loiter in public toilets to engage or solicit “any lewd or lascivious or any unlawful act.”
- You lodge in any building, structure, vehicle or other public or private place “without the permission of the owner or person entitled to the possession or in control of it.”
- You are found in a public place under the influence of any controlled substances, to the point where you are “unable to exercise care” for your safety or the safety of others, or to the point where your behavior “obstructs or prevents the free use of any street, sidewalk, or other public way.”
For 9 out of 10 people, this last part is what you need to be aware of. Although the law prevents you from being intoxicated in a public place, to the point where your behavior isn’t safe for yourself or others, navigating what is and isn’t safe can be difficult. With Halloween coming up, you should be aware of where the line is drawn in case someone accuses you of crossing it. At the law offices of Chung & Ignacio, LLP, we have the criminal defense experience to know if you were unfairly charged. Call us at (909) 726-7112 if you believe you have been wrongly arrested for disorderly conduct.
What Should I Expect If I Am Arrested for Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct is usually considered a misdemeanor, but it can span the gamut when it comes to punishment. Legal ramifications may include some mix of:
- A citation ordering the recipient to pay a fine.
- A night in police custody, wherein the arrested party must procure bail to be released.
- Jail time, up to a year in the most extreme cases.
How Do I Know If I Am Being Unfairly Charged with Disorderly Conduct?
There are several reasons why a police officer may make an unfair arrest for disorderly conduct. If you believe any of the following apply to your situation, you may qualify for legal representation.
- The reason was vague: As mentioned above, California’s disorderly conduct laws are not exactly air-tight. How much a person is or isn’t a danger to themselves and others may be subjective, especially if a police officer is looking for a reason to arrest someone. For instance, what if someone is loud in a public place, but their blood alcohol level was not over the legal limit? What if the opposite was true, and someone was intoxicated but keeping to themselves? Does merely speaking to a police officer when you are intoxicated merit a disorderly conduct arrest? This is what happened to comedian Hannibal Buress last year in Miami, where the charges were eventually dropped. Remember, even though it’s usually a misdemeanor, a disorderly conduct offense will go on your permanent record, and possibly result in harsh fines.
- You were participating in a holiday or other large gathering: Being arrested for disorderly conduct during a holiday does not necessarily mean you were unfairly charged, but it may skew police’s view of the incident. In big and loud groups, what looks like unruly behavior or fighting can sometimes just be raucous fun. Anyone who has ever been to a St. Patrick’s Day or New Year’s Eve party knows this. Furthermore, the police may find unfair loopholes to take advantage during these situations if they suspect disorderly conduct is happening. For instance, some jurisdictions believe that wearing a mask is enough to make a disorderly conduct charge. Can you imagine the legal minefield this might create on Halloween? This is why it’s important to consider the circumstances, should it happen to you.
- The charges were racially motivated: It’s a sad reality that across the United States you don’t have to look far to find instances of disorderly conduct charges that appear to be racially biased. One 2015 study from the ACLU, conducted in four test cities, found that black people were 2.6 to 9.6 times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct and other low level offenses. These kind of racially motivated arrests are simply unacceptable, and if you believe you have been the victim in such a case, you deserve to have your day in court.
A disorderly conduct arrest should not screw up your life. Be careful this holiday season, know if you are being charged unfairly, and contact legal representation if you need to.
Have you been charged with disorderly conduct or another misdemeanor offense? Looking for legal representation? Call the law offices of Chung & Ignacio, LLP at (909) 726-7112 or visit our website today. Our legal team has fought for clients all across Southern California, and our diverse backgrounds and collective 50 years of wide-ranging experience make us the ideal legal counsel for many unique cases.