Accused of Disorderly Conduct?
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Disorderly conduct is a common criminal charge, usually committed by minors or students, and covers several inappropriate and offensive behaviors.
You may be charged if you aggressively threaten someone in a public place, or if you fire a weapon in your neighborhood. However, many people are arrested for seemingly harmless actions, such gesturing to another person in a lewd way, looking through a neighbor’s window, or walking into an occupied restroom.
If you are accused of disorderly conduct, it may feel as if you are being treated unfairly. A criminal defense lawyer understands how to present your side of the story in a positive way.
What is Considered Disorderly Conduct
Disorderly conduct is what is known as a “catch-all” charge in the state of Texas. Most of these cases originate when someone makes a call about offensive behavior, or when a person causes a disruption in a public place. A broad definition is: engaging in any activity that disturbs the peace.
As stated in Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, the following can lead to disorderly conduct charges:
- Causing a disruption through vulgar language or any phrase or statement that leads to people being offended in a public place.
- Creating an odor that disrupts the peace. This could be caused by a marijuana cigarette, fumes from spray paint, or any other chemical that is noticeable or hazardous.
- Gesturing to someone in an offensive manner. If you decide to give someone the middle finger, which causes a disturbance of the peace, it could be reported to police.
- Making excessive noise in a public place.
- Engaging in a physical altercation or subjecting another individual to verbal abuse in public.
- Firing a gun in a public place.
- Exposing genitalia in an obvious manner. If there are children around, you may face an indecency charge as well.
- Looking into a person’s home while trespassing, or looking into someone else’s hotel room.
Disorderly Conduct as a Reduced Charge
In many cases, lawyers may fight to have more serious offenses reduced to disorderly conduct. This is largely due to that fact this charge is only a misdemeanor, may not carry jail time, and many of the other penalties that would arise from a felony conviction.
When criminal charges are reduced, it often happens as part of a plea agreement. In exchange for a lesser charge and greatly reduced penalties, you must agree to plead guilty. These deals can also be made in high profile cases where police are desperate for additional information.
Disorderly conduct is often associated with drug possession or public intoxication.
Penalties of a Disorderly Conduct Conviction
The majority of disorderly conduct acts are classified as Class C misdemeanors. This is the least serious type of criminal offense in the state of Texas. However, if you discharge a firearm in public or display a firearm with the intention of causing unrest, you may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor.
Penalties that are often assigned for disorderly conduct include, but are not limited to:
- Disorderly Conduct (Class C Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $500
- Disorderly Conduct (Class B Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days imprisoned
Many people believe that being convicted of a relatively minor crime will not affect their chances for employment. However, a disorderly conduct conviction will stay on your criminal record, which means that it can show up on a background check. Many potential employers see a criminal conviction as a red flag and may stop communicating with you once they learn about your past. A criminal record may also make it difficult to continue your education. For example, most universities have hard and fast rules about the conduct of students while enrolled at the university, and the backgrounds of those who are looking to enroll. A current student who breaks any state or federal laws may be suspended or expelled.
Contact our Denton County criminal attorneys for a free consultation, to discuss the details of your case.
Defending Against a Disorderly Conduct Charge
There are many ways to get your disorderly conduct charges dismissed. Under Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, self-defense or protection from an animal can be used as a defense if you are being accused of discharging or displaying a weapon. If you were arrested for vulgar language or offensive gestures, it may be argued that you had no intention of causing harm. You may be able to claim that you yelled on accident, or that your actions were not directed at anyone in particular.