Facing a disorderly conduct penalty is scary. But it’s scarier if you don’t know what to expect. Learn what to expect with a disorderly conduct penalty, so you know how to handle the situation.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly conduct doesn’t describe one particular type of action, but instead, includes a variety of actions that could be described as unruly. One common action that results in this charge is public drunkenness. If you’ve been drinking and get out of hand, you might find yourself facing a disorderly conduct charge. Other common actions include provoking someone with a threat, loitering, and disturbing the peace.
Lewd behavior also falls under the umbrella of disorderly conduct. Exposing yourself publicly for the purpose of harassing another person is disorderly conduct. For example, morning someone from your vehicle could result in you getting a disorderly conduct penalty.
Any type of disruptive behavior in public is cause for police to charge you with disorderly conduct. For this reason, many people label it as a “catch-all” offense. Many actions fall under the charge, and it’s open to interpretation.
It’s important to remember that disorderly conduct doesn’t mean that alcohol was involved. There may be no alcohol involved in a charge. All that matters is that you were disruptive to others. And disruptive could mean using obscene language in public, firing a firearm near a public road, or threatening someone in a public restroom. And the term “public” might not mean what you think it does. A public place can be an individual’s private property if the general public has access to it.
What Happens When You’re Arrested for Disorderly Conduct?
The process changes depending on where you live and the circumstances of your arrest, but this can give you an idea of what to expect. When a police officer arrests you, she will take you to the station and will process you. Then, she will take your fingerprints and will photograph you. And that’s not the end of it. You will need to wait in a holding cell while they process your paperwork. Sometimes, the wait it is a few hours. Then, you’ll be free to go until your court date.
At your court date, a judge hears your case and determines the proper punishment. The consequences of a disorderly conduct charge depend on several factors. This can include the severity of the incident, whether or not you have any prior offenses, the location of the act, and your state’s laws regarding disorderly conduct. Some charges result in something as minor as a citation and a fine. Others end with misdemeanor charges.
If you get a misdemeanor, you may face jail time and more fines. The jail sentence could be as long as one year. It’s also possible (though rare) for the charge to lead to a felony. In that case, you could be incarcerated for over a year and pay steep fines. But felony charges usually only apply if you exhibited disorderly conduct at an airport or funeral.
The Judge’s Discretion
One good thing about disorderly conduct charges is that it’s usually at the discretion of the judge. A judge can choose to reduce your punishment if you haven’t done anything like this in the past. First-time offenders are usually treated more mildly than repeat offenders. Instead of jail time, a judge might issue you with a fine or community service hours.
They also take your character into account and look at all the facts of the case. A judge might consider where the act of disorderly conduct occurred. A school or hospital might bring harsher penalties than a ball game or race track.
Disorderly Conduct Penalty in RI and MA
But what exactly are you looking at? The penalty for disorderly conduct in Rhode Island is a $500 fine or up to six months in jail. In serious cases, it can end with both the fine and jail time. If the disruption occurs in a public assembly, it could result to even more jail time (up to a year) and a $500 fine.
Massachusetts is a little less strict. A first-time offender could face a fine of $150 or less. A previous offender could face as much as six months in jail, a $200 fine. In extreme cases, you could face both jail time and the fine.
Are You Dealing with a Disorderly Conduct Penalty?
Disorderly conduct charges don’t have to end in a misdemeanor. The charges can be dropped, expunged, or lessened. In many cases, a lawyer can work out a plea deal. At other times, the prosecution may make a mistake that makes the charges disappear. However, in any situation, you need help fighting the charge. It’s not something that you should handle on your own. Make sure to reach out to a disorderly conduct defense lawyer for the help you need.