7 Ways to Get Charged With Disorderly Conduct
Just about every one of us has experienced an evening where a friend, family member, or a total stranger has had a bit too much to drink and starts making a fool of themselves. It may have even happened to you. If you’re lucky, cooler heads prevail and nobody calls the cops. If you’re unlucky, you end up with a free ride to jai and a charge of disorderly conduct.
Disorderly conduct, also known as ‘disturbing the peace’ is a crime in California that involves public activity and/or behavior that is considered offensive or disruptive and interrupts other people’s ability to enjoy a public space.
It will probably come as no surprise that most charges of disorderly conduct involve the consumption of alcohol or drugs.
What Qualifies as Disorderly Conduct?
Just being a loud jerk in a public place isn’t enough to qualify as disorderly conduct. California law includes seven distinct classifications that can get someone charged with a crime for bad behavior.
1) Improper Sexual Conduct
Improper sexual conduct consists of any of the following:
- Engaging in or soliciting another person to engage in lewd or immoral behavior in a public place or a place that’s exposed to the public.
- Engaging in prostitution or soliciting for acts of prostitution.
- Loitering in or near a public toilet with the aim of engaging in lewd acts or in order to solicit for lewd and unlawful acts.
- Invading another person’s privacy such as peeping or recording them in a bathroom or dressing room in order to get sexual gratification.
Bottom line: don’t mix sex or sexual acts with public places. If children are involved in any way, whether as witnesses or otherwise, it will land you in even bigger trouble.
2) Unlawful Lodging or Loitering
In California, it is against the law to live – “lodge” – in a public or private building, place, or structure without the owner’s permission.
Some cities are more lax in enforcing this rule than others, but may add it as an additional charge in conjunction with other disruptive behavior.
3) Drunk and Disorderly Behavior
This is the most common reason for being charged with disorderly conduct. It’s illegal to be in public while under the intoxication of alcohol, drugs, and other controlled substances to the point where you are unable to exercise care for yourself or others.
Additionally, it is illegal to obstruct others from public spaces as a result of your intoxication.
4) Fighting, General Noisiness, and Using Offensive Language
Fighting in public or challenging someone to a fight in public is a crime in California. As is making unreasonably loud noise to intentionally disturb others.
Using offensive words in a public space, particularly when those words could provoke violence, is also a crime.
It should probably go without saying, but starting and/or participating in a riot is a crime. More importantly, you can be held responsible in civil court for financial losses (property damage) resulting from your actions during a riot.
6) Disturbing the Peace on a School Campus
If you’re not a student, but are on a college campus, it’s illegal to fight, be unreasonably loud, or use offensive language.
7) Refusing to Disperse
If you’re in a group that has assembled with the express goal of disturbing the peace, and then refuse to disperse when so ordered by the police, that’s a crime.
Penalties For Disorderly Conduct
In California, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of one thousand dollars, or both.
If you are convicted of repeated disorderly conduct charges, the penalties will likely increase.
Do I Need An Attorney?
It’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney, even if the charges against you seem relatively minor. With that said, many charges of disorderly conduct can be resolved without the need for an attorney.
If you’ve been charged with disorder conduct and aren’t sure whether or not you need a lawyer, give us a call. We’re happy to evaluate your case and tell you if we think you need representation.
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