Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct charges under ARS § 13-2904, also called disturbing the peace, is a criminal offense. You might think that it isn’t all that severe since it is “just” a misdemeanor. But all criminal charges need to be taken seriously.
Disturbing the peace can be charged as a felony in certain circumstances. In Arizona, felonies — and misdemeanors, too — stay on your record effectively your whole life. It is, therefore, essential to fight a disorderly conduct charge.
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The Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct Charge
A conviction for disorderly conduct requires intent. The person must have the objective to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood. They must also “know” or be aware of what the result of their conduct will be. It does not require, though, that the person know that their actions are against the law, and in fact, that is never a defense. Elements for a misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction include:
- Fighting or violent, disruptive actions;
- Making enough noise to disturb a reasonable person;
- Using abusive or offensive language to the point of causing someone to retaliate;
- Making a commotion to interrupt a meeting, gathering, or procession intentionally; or
- Refusing to follow lawful orders to disperse for the sake of public safety.
Disorderly conduct is a rather general term. What might be acceptable behavior under one set of circumstances can be a crime under other conditions.
Typically, conduct charged as a crime caused someone alarm, annoyance, or anger. But a prosecutor does not have to show that anyone was frightened or alarmed. It is only necessary to show that a “reasonable person” would have been, unless they allege specifically that one person was disturbed.
Felony Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct might seem like a minor charge. But a misdemeanor conviction can follow you for the rest of your life. A felony has even more dire consequences, and one classification of disorderly conduct is a felony.
What turns a disorderly conduct charge into a felony is using a deadly weapon or harmful instruments like guns or knives.
Subsection A6 of ARS 13-2904 addresses conduct charged as a felony. Such conduct involves a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument that is intentionally and knowingly:
- Handled recklessly;
- Displayed; or
A felony conviction can drastically alter your life. A first-time conviction can result in four months to two years in prison, fines up to $150,000, and victim restitution.
Being charged with a disorderly conduct charge does not mean you will be convicted. The best way to address a disorderly conduct charge begins by contacting a knowledgeable, experienced, and skilled criminal attorney.
Consequences Can Extend Beyond Sentencing
Penalties for a criminal conviction are like a bad movie. The sequel can be many times worse. Living with a criminal record can mean running into roadblocks for advancement and opportunity, including closed doors to:
- Particular jobs, industries, or professions
- Academic or educational programs
- Some types of governmental assistance
- Owning or possessing a firearm
- Voting or holding public office
Suppose you are charged with disorderly conduct, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, you have legal protections and defenses available. Contact Attorney Omer Gurion to schedule a FREE consultation.
Challenging a Disorderly Conduct Charge
The disorderly conduct law is broadly worded. Some say this can lead to abuse in its application. If it does, there is a good chance of mounting a successful defense. Often there is nobody to testify against the accused.
For example, in a domestic situation, events may have initiated a misunderstanding. In such a case, after the arrest, those involved lose interest in seeing the case proceed.
Disorderly conduct laws came about in the nineteenth century to help police reduce street clashes. But the law is a tool to help keep the peace in various situations.
Whatever that situation, it is up to a peace officer to decide what is or is not disorderly conduct. They have a lot of discretion in arresting someone for disorderly conduct.
As noted above, one of the elements of the crime of disorderly conduct is the use of abusive or offensive language to the point of causing someone to retaliate.
Speech is expressive conduct. So, whatever you say in public is protected, right? That is correct — to a point. Talking trash to the police may not get you arrested. If it does, you may have a good First Amendment argument to have the charge dropped.
Assume you have been charged or arrested for misdemeanor disorderly conduct. In that case, you should meet with a criminal attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case. A skilled attorney will make sure that a complete and exhaustive defense on your behalf is prepared and achieved, including:
- Ensuring you are treated fairly and respectfully throughout the process
- Seeing to it that your constitutional rights are protected
- Collecting all evidence
- Identifying weaknesses in the prosecution’s case
In short, your Phoenix disorderly conduct attorney will mount a vigorous and complete defense. As the saying goes, we’re in it to win it. The objective is to achieve the best outcome possible by having the case dismissed or the charges or sentence reduced.
Example Situations Leading to a Disorderly Conduct Charge
People get charged with disorderly conduct in various circumstances. Some get charged after getting into arguments, and someone else calls the police. These are often situations that don’t require police involvement. But if called, the police are likely to make an arrest.
A Night on the Town
Sometimes the victims of others get charged with disorderly conduct instead of the people who started the trouble. For example, people get arrested for disorderly conduct after a bouncer kicks them out of a bar for seemingly harmless behavior. Situations escalate, and the security people may be more to blame than the person arrested. The police may perform little to no investigation. It then falls on prosecutors and courts to figure out later.
Unless challenged, this wrong can result in innocent people having to go through the legal system. Without the defense of an experienced attorney, the risk of a criminal conviction, even though not your fault, is a real possibility.
A familiar scenario is when people get charged for fighting or making noise. That often happens within a domestic setting. A couple or group of friends will get into an argument, and a neighbor or another person calls the police.
In most cases like this, the dispute or disagreements are temporary and do not require police involvement. But again, when they arrive at what may be designated a domestic dispute, someone may be arrested.
What Happens After a Disorderly Conduct Arrest?
The Judge can set release conditions, like not returning to the scene where the disorderly conduct supposedly happened. Such an order can be highly disruptive, especially if the person cannot return to their residency. Until the order is modified, the person may have to stay elsewhere.
Suppose the case did not involve a domestic dispute. In that case, the person arrested may be released sooner but told not to return to the scene. They will then receive a new court date in approximately 30 days.
Police may do little to investigate and may even aggravate situations. The tendency is to let the prosecutor and the court deal with it.
In domestic cases, the person arrested for disorderly conduct will spend several hours or the night in jail before seeing a judge.
What to Expect in Court for a Disorderly Conduct Charge?
The same criminal procedure controls a misdemeanor disorderly conduct as any other case. The first court date is usually an arraignment where the Judge explains the charge and the defendant makes a plea of guilty or not guilty.
Assume the defendant pleads not guilty. Then the case proceeds. But if the defendant pleads guilty, the case closes, and there is no opportunity for providing a defense.
Next is usually a Pre-Trial Conference. Here, the prosecutor and the defense meet in court to discuss issues surrounding the case.
For example, your attorney requests everything the prosecutor has concerning the charges. In a criminal case, the defense has a legal right to access this material, including:
- Police reports and the arresting officer’s notes
- All witness statements
- Any dashcam or bodycam footage
- Any available surveillance camera footage
- 911 call recordings
- Any seized and impounded phone messages, text messages, voicemails
- Any jail videos
The bottom line is never put yourself in a position to feel that you have no recourse. That won’t happen with attorneys experienced in handling misdemeanor disorderly conduct cases. Getting representation needs to be the priority.
Speak with Gurion Legal Today to Fight a Disorderly Conduct Conviction
Don’t face a disorderly conduct charge alone. To get more information about Gurion Legal, go online to https://www.gurionlegal.com/ or call (480) 800-0020 now.
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