Disorderly conduct is a very common offense for people to be charged with in Philadelphia. Though less serious than a felony, disorderly conduct is still a crime, and as such, can lead to fines and incarceration. Disorderly conduct will also give you a criminal record if you are found guilty, which can make it much harder to find work, obtain loans, and earn the professional licenses or permits you need to support your family and achieve your dreams.
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Philadelphia, you have a very short window of time for responding to the accusations before a warrant for your arrest is issued. If you, your spouse, your son or daughter, or a family member was charged with or arrested for disorderly conduct, it’s important to act quickly by contacting a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer for legal help.
What is Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania?
Disorderly conduct has a broad legal definition in Pennsylvania, which can work for or against a defendant. On one hand, there are numerous situations that can lead to disorderly conduct charges – but on the other, many defense strategies can be employed to discredit and potentially beat the charges.
In order to prove that you are guilty of disorderly conduct and should be sentenced, the prosecution must prove that your actions fit the legal definition of disorderly conduct, which is established under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5503(a). The legal definition of disorderly conduct has two parts. First, the prosecution must show that you had “intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm,” or that you “recklessly creat[ed] a risk” of public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Second, the prosecution must show that you did at least one of the following:
- Participated in a fight.
- Threatened to fight somebody.
- Took part in “violent or tumultuous behavior.”
- Created an “unreasonable” amount of noise.
- Used “obscene language.”
- Made an “obscene gesture” with your hands or body.
- Caused a dangerous or “physically offensive” condition, by any means, which did not serve a “legitimate” purpose.
Based on this definition, many disorderly conduct charges arise from street altercations, bar scuffles, or fights at sporting events or in parking lots. Intoxication is often, but not always, an alleged factor. Incidents of disorderly conduct that specifically involve fighting or violence may lead to more serious criminal charges, such as simple assault or aggravated assault.
A skilled disorderly conduct lawyer will analyze the situation from every legal angle to determine the most effective defense strategy. For instance, it may be possible to show that you did not have the necessary intent, that you were not actually in public or affecting the public, that the level of noise you created was not actually unreasonable, or that the condition you created was neither “hazardous” nor “physically offensive.”
Penalties for a First Time Disorderly Conduct Charge
There are three tiers or levels of criminal offenses in Pennsylvania: felonies, misdemeanors, and summary offenses. First-offense disorderly conduct is generally a summary offense.
A felony is the most serious type of charge, while a summary offense is the least serious. However, that does not mean you should ignore the charges against you, nor can you afford to make the mistake of assuming your charges are “no big deal.” On the contrary, it’s important to understand that a disorderly conduct charge can have negative long-term effects on your personal and professional life, in the following ways:
- You could be sentenced to jail for up to 90 days (three months), which is the maximum jail sentence for a summary offense in Pennsylvania. Not only is incarceration intensely unpleasant, but in addition, the time away from work could cause you to lose your job.
- You could be fined up to $300.
- Because you will receive a criminal record, you will likely find it more difficult to successfully apply for jobs, qualify for loans, and seize other opportunities.
If you continue with the conduct “after reasonable warning or request to desist,” disorderly conduct is a third degree misdemeanor, which is more serious than a summary offense. If you are charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct in Philadelphia, the maximum jail sentence could quadruple from three months to one year, while the fine could increase more than eight-fold, shooting from $300 to $2,500.
Philadelphia Disorderly Conduct Defense Attorneys Can Help
If you received a summary citation for disorderly conduct in Philadelphia, or were arrested for a misdemeanor offense, you need to protect your rights. The first step is to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable criminal attorney, who can advise you as to the best course of action for responding to the allegations. For a free legal consultation about misdemeanor or summary offense disorderly conduct in Philadelphia, contact the Law Office of Lloyd Long today.