Disorderly conduct is a type of criminal offense that can be committed in a variety of ways, including engaging in fighting, making unreasonable noise, or using abusive language in public. In New York, disorderly conduct is considered a violation, which is less severe than a misdemeanor or felony. However, a conviction for disorderly conduct can still result in significant consequences, including fines, community service, and even brief jail time. If you or a loved one has been charged with disorderly conduct in New York, it’s important to understand the potential punishment and the options for defense. In this article, Eastcoastlaws.com will explore the specifics of disorderly conduct in New York, including the potential consequences for a conviction, as well as possible defense strategies to help you fight the charge.
What Are Disorderly Conduct Laws?
Laws governing disorderly conduct vary greatly between states and localities. Any offensive, obscene, abusive, or disruptive behavior that is likely to cause other persons to become alarmed, angry, irritated, or more inclined to engage in illegal activity is often classified as disorderly conduct by states. This definition takes into account both the circumstances surrounding the conduct as well as the sort of behavior involved.
Many cases of disorderly conduct involve actions that, if they had taken place in a different setting or at a different time, would not have been considered disorderly. Using the exact same language and voice volume in an industrial area during the middle of the weekday is not considered disorderly conduct, but shouting loudly in a residential neighborhood street late at night is.
It is not always necessary for the prosecution to show that another person was alarmed by the accused’s behavior in order to prove disorderly conduct charges. When deciding on disorderly conduct laws, courts use an impartial standard. Hence, a prosecutor need only demonstrate that the behavior would have concerned a reasonable person.
While some jurisdictions forbid unruly behavior in public places or activity that disturbs the peace, other states may not necessarily require that the behavior take place in public or have an impact on the general populace. Courts have ruled that public areas can include locations like amusement parks, ERs at hospitals, carnivals, and even privately owned structures that are rented out to the general public for events. Courts have ruled that any behavior that disturbs others—typically neighbors—when it occurs in private meets the public requirement. Since the law does not require a public aspect, it is sufficient for the behavior to disturb or disturb the tranquility of one person.
What Are Examples Of Disorderly Conduct?
Because of the differences in the laws defining disorderly conduct, what constitutes such conduct in one state may not count as disorderly in another. However, a range of behaviors often qualifies as disorderly conduct, regardless of the state or municipality in which it occurs.
- Fighting. Many states and city prosecutors punish fighting, brawling, or physical scuffles as disorderly conduct, even though more serious charges of assault or battery may apply. However, the circumstances of each case often determine whether a prosecutor charges the accused with assault, battery, disorderly conduct, or more serious charges.
- Disruptive protests. While engaging in peaceful protests is a constitutionally protected right, engaging in disruptive protests is not. For example, courts have held that participants in a sit-in demonstration engaged in disorderly conduct because they blocked traffic on a pedestrian walkway.
- Disturbing an assembly. Interrupting a city council meeting, a public rally, or a religious ceremony can be enough to qualify as disorderly conduct.
- Public misconduct. Engaging in what is normally private conduct in a public place is often charged as disorderly conduct. Public urination, public masturbation, and public intoxication can constitute disorderly conduct.
- Police encounters. Many disorderly conduct charges arise from encounters people have with the police. For example, while arguing with a police officer does not count as disorderly conduct, arguing with police while engaging in threatening conduct or using any type of physical contact does. A person who fails to comply with a police order to move away from a public area also doesn’t typically engage in disorderly conduct, unless the police officer issued the order in a situation where crowd control was an issue.
Some states may also classify certain behavior as its own offense, such as public intoxication or resisting arrest.
What Is The Punishment For Disorderly Conduct In NY?
Disorderly conduct is prohibited. Violations are subject to a fine and/or up to 15 days in jail, but they do not result in criminal records.
A class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum one-year prison sentence and a maximum $1,000 fine, involves disrupting a religious service or funeral. It’s a class A or B misdemeanor to loiter with the intent to use or purchase narcotics, engage in prostitution, or promote it. Class B offenses carry a maximum three-month prison sentence and a maximum $500 fine. Otherwise, loitering is prohibited.
Rioting is a class A misdemeanor, as is instigating rioting. A class B misdemeanor is an unlawful assembly. Riot is a class E felony that carries a one- to four years prison sentence as well as a fine of up to $5,000 if it leads to property damage or personal injury. Riots involving eleven or more individuals are illegal.
A class A misdemeanor is raising a false alarm. Severe false alarms and planting a fake bomb in a sports stadium or arena, amusement park, enclosed mall, on school property, in a public building, or in any other public location are class D offenses that are subject to fines of up to $5,000 and sentences of one to seven years in prison. A class E felony also includes making a false bomb or hazardous material complaint, as well as putting it somewhere other than a public location.
(N.Y. Pen. Law § § 240.05, 240.06, 240.08, 240.10, 240.20, 240.21, 240.35, 240.36, 240.37, 240.50, 240.55, 240.60, 240.61, 240.62, 240.63.)
What Are Common Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges?
The standard response to an accusation of disorderly behavior is, “It wasn’t me.” Also, by arguing that the elements weren’t demonstrated, the defense attorney may attempt to undermine the prosecution’s case. For instance, the lawyer can assert that the behavior wasn’t rude or annoying or the kind that would worry a sane person.
Crimes involving disorderly conduct can involve a wide range of behaviors, therefore they frequently face constitutional issues. For instance, a statute that is too broad and forbids constitutional behavior (like First Amendment rights) might be ruled unconstitutional. Or, if the law’s language is so ambiguous that it would be difficult for someone to understand what behavior is forbidden, the law may be declared to be unconstitutionally vague.