What Are the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a charge that is meant to penalize behavior that disturbs the peace, threatens to disrupt public life, or behavior that is considered obnoxious and disruptive. In Georgia, disorderly conduct charges can be used by police officers to detain individuals or prevent them from causing more serious problems, resulting in more serious charges. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, contact a skilled criminal defense lawyer at your earliest convenience.

What Is Disorderly Conduct?

Also referred to as “disturbing the peace,” disorderly conduct includes behaviors that create alarm or anger in others, or that have the potential to conduct illegal acts. Disorderly conduct is one of the most common charges filed in Georgia, and other jurisdictions. In the state of Georgia, there are a number of ways that an individual can be charged with disorderly conduct, including the following:

  • When someone acts in a way that is violent or tumultuous towards another person, and causes him or her to fear for the safety of their life or health.
  • When the violent of tumultuous behavior causes another person’s property to be damaged or destroyed.
  • When someone uses abusive or offensive words to incite a disturbance of the peace or provoke violent resentment. These are also known as fighting words.
  • When an unprovoked person uses vulgar or obscene language in the presence of a child who is under the age of 14, which threatens an immediate breach of peace.

What Does Disorderly Conduct Cover?

There are a number of factors that are considered when someone has been charged with disorderly conduct. While the laws vary from state to state, disorderly conduct generally covers the following:

  • Circumstances: Oftentimes, disorderly conduct cases involve actions or behaviors that would not be considered disorderly if it occurred at a different time and in a different location. For example, if someone is standing outside in a residential neighborhood late at night and starts yelling loudly, this would be considered disorderly conduct. However, if the same person was saying the same words at the same volume, but at a construction site in the middle of the day, this is not considered disorderly conduct.
  • Location: While any type of disorderly conduct that occurs in places, including public restrooms, hospital emergency rooms and private buildings available for public rental is prohibited, disorderly behavior that occurs in private will meet the public requirement if the conduct disrupts or disturbs even a single person’s peace of mind.
  • Objectivity: It is not always necessary for the prosecution to demonstrate that the other person was alarmed or threatened by the accused’s behavior. The prosecution must only be able to prove that a reasonable person would not have been threatened by the behavior. The courts apply an objective standard in disorderly conduct cases.

What Are Examples of Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a common charge, and includes a range of actions and behaviors that cause a disturbance of the peace. The following are examples of actions that are considered disorderly conduct:

  • Fighting: Depending on the circumstances and the nature of the argument, fighting or any other type of physical altercation may be considered disorderly conduct. However, the individuals involved could face the more serious charges of assault or battery if the situation becomes more violent.
  • Protests: All citizens have the right to participate in peaceful protests. However, protests that become disruptive are considered disorderly conduct. For example, protesters who participate in a sit-in demonstration that blocks traffic may be charged with disorderly conduct.
  • Disturbing an assembly: If a person or group of people interrupt a city council meeting, religious ceremony or public rally, it may qualify as disorderly conduct.
  • Public misconduct: Public urination, public masturbation, public intoxication or any other behavior that should normally be conducted in private may be considered disorderly conduct.
  • Police encounters: Arguing with a police officer is not necessarily considered disorderly conduct. However, using threatening language or engaging in physical contact with a police officer does count as disorderly conduct.

What Are the Legal Penalties for Disorderly Conduct?

In most cases, disorderly conduct is considered a misdemeanor offense that is punishable by a maximum of twelve months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Depending on the severity of your conduct, you may receive a ticket for your actions, or you may be arrested, which means you will be booked and someone will need to bail you out. Whether you received a citation or you were arrested, once you have been charged with disorderly conduct, you are required to appear in court where you will enter a plea of ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty.’ If you entered a ‘not guilty’ plea, the court will decide whether you can be released on recognizance or remain in jail until your court date.

While disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, if it is a second or third offense, repeat offenders are subject to more severe penalties, including higher fines and extended jail time. In addition, if the disorderly conduct occurred when someone was committing another crime, like stealing, he or she may face multiple charges, particularly if the individual was caught fleeing. The exact penalty for disorderly conduct will depend on the specific nature of the crime, however, the following are examples of possible punishments for disorderly conduct:

  • Alcohol education
  • Community service
  • Court ordered counseling
  • Criminal fine
  • Drug testing
  • Jail time of up to one year
  • Probation

What Are Effective Defense Strategies for a Disorderly Conduct Charge?

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is imperative that you have a skilled criminal defense lawyer on your side. He or she will thoroughly review the charges that have been brought against you and fight to have them dismissed or dropped. The following are examples of possible defense strategies that may be used:

  • Self-defense: This line of defense may be used if a reasonable amount of force was necessary to prevent a threat of violence by another person. If the self-defense strategy is used, it is important to understand that it will only be effective if the defendant only used a comparable amount of force that the aggressor used.
  • Imperfect self-defense: If the defendant sincerely believed that force was necessary to prevent an injury, but the belief was unreasonable, this line of defense may be used. An example would be if the defendant hit another person because he or she believed he or she was about to be struck by the other person.
  • Intoxication: There are two options when it comes to this line of defense. Involuntary intoxication occurs when someone becomes intoxicated against their will. This can occur when someone is drugged or forced to drink an alcoholic beverage, causing them to engage in some type of disorderly conduct. The voluntary intoxication strategy is used as a defense to specific intent crimes if it prevents the defendant from forming the intent necessary to commit the crime.
  • Mistake of fact: This is another defense strategy that may be used to fight a disorderly conduct charge. This argues that the defendant should not be found guilty because they were mistaken about a fact that is essential to the case. For example, if the case involved the destruction of property, but the defendant reasonably and honestly believed that they were destroying their own property, a criminal defense lawyer may pursue the mistake of fact strategy.
  • Duress: This defense strategy may be effective if the defendant faced an immediate threat of violence, and believed that they would have been injured if they did not commit a specific crime. In other words, they would have been unable to avoid the threat unless they committed the crime.
  • Necessity: If the defendant claims that they committed an act of disorderly conduct in order to prevent a greater, more severe crime, this may be a viable defense strategy. This may also be effective if the defendant’s actions were necessary to address an emergency situation.

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is very important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. While this is a minor charge, it can have serious consequences on your personal and professional life. A highly skilled criminal defense lawyer has a thorough understanding of the laws related to disorderly conduct and will pursue the defense strategy that will have the best possible outcome, whether that is having the charges dropped or the case dismissed.

Springfield Criminal Defense Lawyers at Kicklighter Law Assist Clients Who Have Been Charged with Disorderly Conduct

If you or someone you know has been charged with disorderly conduct, do not hesitate to contact our Springfield criminal defense lawyers at Kicklighter Law. To schedule a confidential consultation, call us today at 912-754-6003 or contact us online. Our office is located in Springfield, Georgia where we serve clients from Springfield, Effingham County, Savannah, and surrounding areas.