Disorderly conduct is an umbrella term used to describe several different actions, which may range from public urination to peeping into someone else’s window. It is generally viewed as a catch-all charge for actions that are considered to be obnoxious or annoying, as the behavior causes some type of public disturbance.

Every state maintains its own laws associated with what could be classified as disorderly conduct. An example of this would be how some states require intent for the crime to be considered disorderly conduct, while others have determined that reckless behavior without intent may also result in a disorderly conduct charge. Although many disorderly conduct crimes occur while someone is intoxicated, this is not generally a necessary element of the crime.

It is important for you to be aware of what actions constitute disorderly conduct in your own state, in addition to what will happen if you are charged with disorderly conduct. However, some of the most common examples of disorderly conduct charges generally involve unruly conduct such as:

  • Being drunk in public;
  • Being loud in public while also being intoxicated;
  • Disrupting noise ordinances;
  • Begging in public;
  • Disturbing a religious ceremony;
  • Loitering in specific areas, such as on a street corner or in front of a store;
  • Disturbing the peace;
  • Provoking others in a threatening manner; and
  • Behaving in an overall disruptive manner.

To reiterate, there are many different actions that could qualify as disorderly conduct due to the fact that this is essentially a catch-all crime. It is not uncommon for this charge to be given when the action does not fit into the elements of another, more specific crime.

Alternatively, some actions are more clearly disorderly conduct and can be considered a more serious crime. An example of this would be how fighting can lead to charges of disorderly conduct in several states; however, a fight may also result in charges of assault or battery, depending on local laws.

Is Disorderly Conduct A Misdemeanor Or A Felony?

Disorderly conduct charges frequently result in criminal penalties in most U.S. jurisdictions. As previously mentioned, some jurisdictions may file disorderly conduct charges as a “catch-all” crime for prosecuting those whose behavior has generally been disruptive.

What is considered to be disorderly conduct will largely depend on your specific jurisdiction. Additionally, it is important to be aware that disorderly conduct crimes are considered to be misdemeanors unless your state has felony exceptions. An example of this would be how some states consider false fire reports or harassment at a funeral as being felony disorderly conduct.

A misdemeanor crime is a specific type of criminal offense that is more serious than a citation, but less serious than felony charges. In most states, the defining characteristic of a misdemeanor is that it is generally punishable by a sentence of one year maximum in a county jail facility. This sentence cannot be served in a state prison facility, which is more commonly reserved for felony charges.

Generally speaking, a felony is defined as any criminal offense resulting in a federal prison sentence of one year or more. Felonies tend to be crimes that involve an element of violence and are considered to be harmful or dangerous to society. Felony crimes include some of the most serious types of crimes that a person can commit, such as first-degree murder and arson.

What Are The Penalties For Disorderly Conduct?

Penalties for disorderly conduct vary greatly according to many different factors. Depending on the severity of your actions as well as local law, you could simply receive a ticket for disorderly conduct. Alternatively, you may be arrested; in which case, you will be booked and must be bailed out. If you do not pay your bail, you must wait in jail until your trial. However, depending on the circumstances, you may not be required to post bail and would be released at the station.

After you have been charged with disorderly conduct whether through a citation or arrest, you will appear in court so that you can enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you were arrested and are pleading not guilty, the court will determine whether you are to be released or will remain in jail. Once again, either bail will be set or the court will release you on the condition that you will appear for future court dates. This is called release on recognizance.

For less serious violations, disorderly conduct charges can result in a simple citation, which may be accompanied by a small fine. Other disorderly conduct cases may lead to misdemeanor charges accompanied by short jail time and more fines. Jail time in these cases could be some months, up to one year maximum.

As previously mentioned, in very specific cases, disorderly conduct can result in felony charges. An example of this would be if the disorderly conduct was committed while in an airport. Penalties for felony disorderly conduct charges can include more than one year in jail or prison, and increased monetary fines.

Can A Disorderly Conduct Charge Be Reduced Or Expunged?

Disorderly conduct charges may be reduced or lessened depending on the facts surrounding each specific case. This is because sentencing for disorderly conduct charges often involves much discretion on the part of the judge. The judge may choose to reduce punishments if it is the person’s first offense, and they otherwise have a generally clean record. Additionally, the judge may choose to issue alternative methods of rehabilitation. An example of this would be paying fines, or performing community service on weekends.

Once you have been charged and convicted with disorderly conduct, the crime will remain on your public record for some time, although this will depend on your state’s specific laws. You may be able to have an arrest and/or conviction expunged from your record. In terms of expungement, it is generally easier to have a simple misdemeanor conviction expunged as opposed to a felony expungement. And, in certain jurisdictions, some felonies cannot be expunged at all.

In some states, disorderly conduct charges may simply expire and automatically be removed from your record. However, other states will require you to petition for expungement. An example of this would be how in Pennsylvania, you can get a single offense of disorderly conduct expunged from your criminal record five years after your conviction. To do so, you would need to file a petition with the court asking for expungement.

In contrast, there is no way to expunge a criminal record of disorderly conduct in New York. However, violations for disorderly conduct can be partially sealed, which is an automatic process that will not require any intervention on your part. As the removal process for disorderly conduct charges and convictions vary based on where you reside, it is imperative to be aware of your state’s stance on the matter if you face disorderly conduct charges.

Do I Need An Attorney For A Disorderly Conduct Charge?

If you are facing disorderly conduct charges, especially felony disorderly conduct, you will need to consult with an experienced and local criminal defense attorney. A local lawyer will be best suited to provide you with legal advice relevant to your state’s laws regarding disorderly conduct.

Additionally, your lawyer can help you determine whether there are any legal defenses available to you based on the specifics of your case, and if you are eligible for record sealing or expungement. Finally, an experienced criminal defense attorney will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.