You may not think your behavior is disruptive or disorderly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be charged with disorderly conduct, as you may have already found out. If you were charged with disorderly conduct in Scottsdale, it is now up to you to prove your actions were not unlawful. Disorderly conduct is one of the vaguest criminal laws, often used when a police officer is trying to stop “unruly” behavior, and it can be applied to almost any public nuisance situation. Since the law is vague, fighting the charge can be difficult without the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney.
What Exactly Is Disorderly Conduct?
Blaring your music in your car loudly in public in Scottsdale, or trying to see what is happening at an emergency scene, can both be considered disorderly conduct, depending on the situation. Disorderly conduct covers a variety of behaviors; some threatening and others that are not. Usually, it’s used by police officers when there is not another charge that can be used to stop the behavior. The law is vague by design, giving law enforcement a tool they can use to reprimand a person when they believe their behavior is disruptive or escalating toward violence.
Disorderly conduct is outlined under ARS 13-2904, also called “disturbing the peace” in other states. These are the types of behaviors that are classified under this law and can result in arrest for disorderly conduct in Arizona:
• You are caught fighting or engaging in other disruptive or violent behavior
• Making “unreasonable” noise – this is at the discretion of the police officer
• Provoking retaliation through offensive/abusive language or gestures – such as using foul language or poking someone in the chest
• Using tactics to prevent a lawful gathering, procession, or other business – blocking a road in protest of an event is one example
• Not dispersing when ordered by law enforcement near an emergency scene, like a fire or natural disaster area
• Any discharging, displaying, or recklessly handling of a deadly weapon or instrument
This outline covers a wide variety of possible behaviors, some merely disruptive or annoying, others that can cause harm. There are many people that have been charged with disorderly conduct just because they were near a situation, even if they did not participate in the disruptive actions. Because this charge can be so easily used by law enforcement with its vague outline, many people with no intention of being “disorderly” are charged or arrested for this crime.
What Happens If Convicted of Disorderly Conduct?
Being charged with disorderly conduct is one thing – being convicted of the crime is another. You will have your day in court to fight the charges, something you should do whether you think you are guilty or not. Most charges of disorderly conduct in Arizona are misdemeanors, but they are the most serious level of a misdemeanor: a Class 1. This is the highest level of misdemeanor, and one step below a felony. And if your disorderly conduct involved a deadly weapon or instrument, you could be facing a class 6 felony.
Any criminal conviction on your record can impact your life, whether it is a misdemeanor or a felony. It is not worth risking a conviction that could impact your life for decades to come without at least trying to have it reduced or dismissed. On top of the scar on your record that could hurt your ability to get certain jobs or opportunities, you could face the following penalties for disorderly conduct:
• Class 1 misdemeanor. Up to six months in jail, three years of probation, and $2,500 in fines plus surcharges.
• Class 6 felony. Up to two years in jail, and probation for first-time offenders, plus fines. If you have previous convictions, you could be facing more jail time and higher fines.
This can be a high price to pay, especially if the circumstances were a misunderstanding between you and the arresting officer. But if you try to fight it on your own, it can be your word against a law enforcement officer. However, there are legal strategies that can be used to prove your innocence or have the charges reduced when you have an experienced criminal defense lawyer on your side.
Scottsdale Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Scottsdale or elsewhere in Arizona, you need to begin building your legal defense. Our team of criminal law experts at Matthew Lopez Law can help you fight your disorderly conduct charge and pursue a not guilty verdict or reduction of the charge. We have many legal tools in our arsenal to help get our clients to get the best possible outcome in their criminal case. Let us try to help you put this behind you and keep it from affecting your future – contact our office to get a free consultation.