Crime Overview Disorderly Conduct

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Disorderly conduct is one of the most common crimes in the United States . It is often used as a catch-all for any behavior that law enforcement officials find unsavory. Police are often given vague and broad authority to arrest people for disorderly conduct for any conduct causing a disturbance or with the potential to cause a disturbance.

Disorderly conduct is generally a misdemeanor, but can be charged as a felony depending upon the circumstances and the laws of the specific state. For example, almost every state in the United States has a disorderly conduct law that makes it a crime to be drunk in public because it disturbs the peace. Disorderly conduct charges can lead to jail time, probation, community service or other forms of punishment. While it may seem insignificant, a disorderly conduct conviction can damage future career plans, and can also create problems if the perpetrator has a record of problems with the law.

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, it is wise to retain the services of a competent criminal defense attorney. If this is a first offense, it may be possible to have your sentence suspended or the charges dropped.

Disorderly conduct laws vary from state to state, but the generalities of the crime are the same and are prosecutable in all 50 states. Some examples of disorderly conduct are public drunkenness, fighting, using loud obscene or abusive language, obscene gestures, loitering, indecent exposure, soliciting, prostitution, inciting a riot, impeding traffic or simply being responsible for loud and obtrusive noise. Each state has determined what offenses fall under disorderly conduct, and some of these listed may be separate crimes. Since disorderly conduct can be considered a catch-all crime, police officers can arrest an individual for various reasons under that category.

The criminal charge of disorderly conduct may seem to be contradictory to the Constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly. While the courts have, on occasion, required states to be more specific in their laws, no court has restricted the use of disorderly conduct laws in general because of unconstitutionality. The right to freedom of speech does not allow you to unreasonably disturb the peace of other citizens. The rights of American citizens are guaranteed, but not absolute.

Some states allow for the prosecution of disorderly conduct that occurs over the telephone or the Internet. Causing a disturbance to others through obscene materials, harassment, threatening communication, or profane language, either over the phone or through email or other form of electronic communication, can be considered disorderly conduct. In Wisconsin, for example, the intent to harass, annoy or offend another person, regardless if it is done in person, over the phone or through email, is a Class B misdemeanor under that state's disorderly conduct statute.

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, seek assistance from a criminal defense attorney.