Disorderly conduct is a kind of criminal charge that may be confusing to some. For one, it involves activities and behaviors that may not be illegal in any other context. Generally, however, it is not a serious offense.
Several different kinds of actions can be classified under the scope of disorderly conduct. This includes actions that cause a disruption to the public peace, threaten the public’s safety or health or upset the public on moral grounds.
One of the most common examples of disorderly conduct is public drunkenness. A person who is very drunk may act erratically and be easily provoked. This could pose a risk to both the drunkard as well as other people in the community. Other activities that may be classified as disorderly conduct could include fighting, using obscene language or creating a lot of noise in public. Even seemingly less disruptive activities like loitering or vagrancy may be classified as disorderly conduct under certain circumstances.
Despite the risks posed by disorderly conduct, it is not treated as a serious offense by law enforcement. A person engaged in disorderly conduct, typically drunkenness, may be detained by police until he or she ceases the behavior. In other cases, detainment may not be used. If this is the case, the person in question may be given a ticket that will have to be paid similarly to a traffic ticket.
A person that receives such a fine will have the option of contesting it in court if he or she so wishes. Generally, the fine will have to be paid. If it is not, there may be far harsher penalties such as jail time.
In certain cases, a person may have been charged with a more serious crime than disorderly conduct before being convicted on this charge. This often happens when the accused accepts a plea deal to be convicted of disorderly conduct as opposed to being tried for a more serious charge. This is done as a way to help save the public and legal system the expense and time it takes to prosecute people for certain crimes.
As previously mentioned, the most common penalty for disorderly conduct is a fine that is paid like a traffic ticket. In other cases, however, community service may be used as a punishment. This is usually saved for more serious cases of disorderly conduct. Similarly, jail time is only used for the most serious cases. Charges of disorderly conduct on a person’s record may be considered by a judge or jury during the sentencing phase of the prosecution for a different crime. Having multiple disorderly conduct charges will probably not reflect well on a person’s record.
Certain behaviors cannot, however, be classified as disorderly conduct thanks to legal statutes and precedence. Political protest is one behavior that may resemble the elements of disorderly conduct but typically cannot be prosecuted as such. However, if the protest is more spontaneous in nature as opposed to being planned, it is more likely to be prosecuted as disorderly conduct.