Disorderly Conduct Defense

Disorderly conduct is a serious offense in Pennsylvania. If you are convicted of disorderly conduct, you may be subject to fines and/or incarceration. You will also receive a criminal record, which can create long-lasting, burdensome obstacles when you are applying for jobs, applying for loans, or searching for housing. In short, a disorderly conduct arrest is a potentially serious legal issue that requires immediate attention from a skilled and experienced criminal defense lawyer.

Do You Need a Lawyer for Disorderly Conduct Chargers?

It is vital that you are represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been arrested for disorderly conduct. You will be up against a prosecutor who has knowledge and training in criminal court procedures. Representation by a defense attorney can help level the playing field and improve the odds of having your charges reduced or dropped completely.

If you or a loved one was arrested for disorderly conduct in Philadelphia, contact us for a free, confidential consultation at 215-712-1212. Criminal defense attorney Lauren Wimmer has a track record of success representing adult and juvenile defendants in a wide array of felony and misdemeanor cases.

Disorderly Conduct Charges Can Lead to Jail Time

Though less serious than a misdemeanor, a summary offense is still considered a crime in Pennsylvania and can lead to fines and jail time if you’re convicted. Moreover, there are situations where disorderly conduct can be graded as a misdemeanor.

The Pennsylvania statute that establishes the legal definition of disorderly conduct is located at 18 Pa.C.S. § 5503. Under this statute, a person engages in disorderly conduct when, acting “with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof,” he or she allegedly does any of the following:

  1. Participates in “fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.”
  2. Makes an “unreasonable” amount of noise.
  3. “[U]ses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture.”
  4. “[C]reates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose” for the defendant.

Despite the complicated language, the fourth type of disorderly conduct, “creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition”, is often used as a catch-all offense for many things that don’t squarely fit into another category.

Regardless of whether the charge is graded as a summary offense or misdemeanor, fines and incarceration are potential outcomes if the defendant is found guilty. The way a disorderly conduct charge is graded in Pennsylvania ultimately depends on two factors:

  1. Whether the defendant acted with intent “to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience.”
  2. Whether the defendant “persist[ed] in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist” – or in other words, whether the defendant continued his or her actions after a reasonable request or warning to stop.

If either of these statements apply, the offense will be prosecuted as a misdemeanor; specifically, a misdemeanor of the third degree. Otherwise, disorderly conduct is a summary offense.

When disorderly conduct is charged as a summary offense in Pennsylvania, penalties may include:

  • Sentence – Up to 90 days in jail
  • Criminal Fine – Up to $300

The penalties for disorderly conduct when it is charged as a third degree misdemeanor may include the following:

  • Sentence – Up to 1 year in jail
  • Criminal Fine – Up to $1,000

While other misdemeanor crimes can also be charged in the second or first degree, these classifications do not apply to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges; third degree misdemeanor is the most serious classification for a disorderly conduct charge in Pennsylvania.

How I Can Help

As with other types of criminal charges, it may be possible to have disorderly conduct charges dropped or reduced. For a defendant to be convicted of disorderly conduct, the prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he or she committed every element of the offense.

A skilled defense attorney can work strategically to counter the accusation that the defendant acted with the intention of causing “public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,” or other elements of the offense. For example, it may be possible to dispute whether the location where the offense allegedly took place fits the legal definition of “public.” 18 Pa.C.S. § 5503(c) defines “public” to mean the following:

“[A]ffecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, any neighborhood, or any premises which are open to the public.”

To provide another example, if the defendant is accused of “creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition which serves no legitimate purpose,” it may be possible to demonstrate that there was a legitimate purpose behind the defendant’s actions.

Regardless of whether you are facing misdemeanor charges or have been charged with a summary offense, I will investigate every detail of the allegations against you to uncover vulnerable points in the prosecution’s case. We take a proactive and meticulous approach to defending clients, and will devote our law firm’s resources to your case. Don’t face the prosecutor alone. Get help from a tough and knowledgeable Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who understands what it takes to fight your charges. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense today or call 215-712-1212 for a free consultation. Protect your future and reduce the impact of what happens in the present.