Most crimes are characterized by only one action or a small number of related actions that can result in one sentence. Disorderly conduct, on the other hand, is an incredibly broad “offense against the public peace” meant to target those who are disrupting the peace, quiet, or order of a neighborhood.
While it is a good thing to have laws in place designed to keep our neighborhood out of chaos, disorderly conduct charges can too often be stretched to apply to simply anyone annoying the community. In these cases, charges are unfounded or misapplied, leaving an innocent person on the hook for misdemeanor charges. In fact, you may not have even known you were breaking the law until the handcuffs were on your wrists.
Actions That Could Lead to Disorderly Conduct Charges
There are many actions can lead to a disorderly conduct charge. Anytime you “recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm,” you can be considered violating disorderly conduct statutes. It’s important to note that simple disorderly conduct charges are not the result of drunken mistakes, as misconduct while drunk would lead to disorderly conduct while intoxicated charges, which, while similar, are not exactly the same.
The following are common actions that can lead to disorderly conduct charges:
- Fighting or threatening violence against another person or property
- Making unreasonable noise
- Insulting or taunting another person in a situation where it is likely to provoke a violent response
- Making obscene gestures
- Saying something offensive or abusive
- Blocking the flow of pedestrian or vehicular traffic without good reason
- Creating a physically offensive condition that presents the risk of physical harm
- Generally making a scene
Although broad, this statute can still be abused. If law enforcement receives reports that you are disturbing the community, you may find yourself cited, despite following the law. In fact, you are more likely to be charged if you particularly annoy the police or they simply don’t like you, which makes the law dangerously susceptible to overreach. In addition, you have First Amendment rights that this law is not allowed to infringe upon, which means that in cases of verbal disorderly conduct, law enforcement doesn’t just have to prove that what you said was offensive, but that it was actually “fighting words” not covered by our right to free speech.
Simple Vs. Aggravated Disorderly Conduct
In most cases, disorderly conduct is considered a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150, but not always. In certain cases, you can actually be charged with aggravated disorderly conduct, which is considered a fourth-degree misdemeanor. In the event that you are arrested for aggravated disorderly conduct, you face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.
So what’s the difference? In reality, the line between the two charges is rather unclear. There are two situations in which disorderly conduct charges are upped to aggravated charges: when your actions occur at or near a school, in an emergency room, or in the presence of a law enforcement officer, firefighter, medical personnel, or any person responding to an emergency or if your behavior continues after you are asked to stop.
Although it is rather obvious when the first condition applies, the second condition is rather subjective. After all, you are almost always asked to stop before an arrest occurs, which means it is completely up to law enforcement whether or not to charge you with aggravated disorderly conduct. This means that any disorderly conduct arrest can go south quickly.
What Should I Do If I’m Charged with Disorderly Conduct?
If you are arrested for disorderly conduct, don’t assume that you can just pay your fine and move on. You never know if you will later face aggravated charges or if this arrest could otherwise adversely affect you in the future. You may have not even actually done anything wrong.
If you have been arrested for disorderly conduct, don’t fight the charges alone. Call the experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck, & Associates today at or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation on your case. We can protect your rights and help you fight to minimize the consequences.