What is the Criminal Charge of Disorderly Conduct?

What is the Criminal Charge of Disorderly Conduct?

Most states have a general catch-all crime under the heading of disorderly conduct. What does that mean? When we think of disorderly conduct, we think of people yelling or screaming or disrupting folks, but there is a fine line on what is acceptable behavior and what is criminal.

There is also a first amendment protection that is attached to that conduct. In most states, a disorderly conduct occurs when there is a breach of the peace. That means that if people have a loud fight or argument, or there’s a commotion going on, then law enforcement can arrest the person for unlawful behavior. But remember, your speech, words coming out of your mouth, are protected under the first amendment. So this means that you be in a public place and you may be saying something at the top of your lungs that may be offensive, but it cannot rise to the level of disorderly conduct unless several things occur. Usually fighting words, meaning that your words themselves incite an immediate breach of the peace, or your actions incite an immediate breach of the peace. If they don’t, generally your words are going to be constitutionally protected.

Generally speaking, disorderly conduct would be a breach of the peace or a public disturbance, but the prosecution would have the burden of proving that the public was disturbed, by a fight, brawl or some kind of vocal altercation. If they can do that, then they will have a successful prosecution. 

If you’re in question, check with a lawyer in your jurisdiction who practices in the area of criminal defense. He or she is best advised as to whether or not you’re actions constitute as disorderly conduct or whether or not they are constitutionally protected.

Do you have more questions about criminal charges and the legal process? Kevin Hayslett has your answers here.

If you have any other questions about a criminal charge of disorderly conduct, contact our team at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Haylsett, P.A. today.


The criminal defense attorneys at Carlson, Meissner, Hart & Hayslett, P.A. are fighting for our clients rights in criminal defense cases in Clearwater, Tampa, Bradenton, Spring Hill, Pinellas, Pasco, New Port Richey, Manatee, Hillsborough and Hernando Counties in Florida.

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J. Kevin Hayslett

Kevin Hayslett, Esq.

J. Kevin Hayslett is an attorney practicing in the areas of Criminal Defense and DUI Defense from the Clearwater office and Hillsborough office. Kevin is an avid tennis player and is currently nationally rated in singles and doubles. You can follow Kevin on Google+, or on Radio IO on his show, "Kevin's Law". Kevin can also be heard on the Sirius Satellite Radio show during the "Ask the Lawyer" segment, which can be heard the first Thursday of every month.