The disorderly conduct charge is one of the most broadly written statutes on the books in Arizona. Since the law is so broad, the crime can be defined in any number of ways.
It’s up to the police at the scene to interpret the law and decide if a disorderly conduct charge is warranted. In fact, it is not unheard of for officers to cite an individual with disorderly conduct if they cannot think of another charge against them.
Under ARS 13-2904, disorderly conduct is defined as occurring when an individual knowingly “disturbs the peace” of a neighborhood, person, or group. As you can see, this broad definition may cover a lot of offenses, including:
Note the use of the word “knowingly.” This means that you cannot be charged with disorderly conduct if you were not aware that you were causing a disturbance.
Generally, a disorderly conduct charge is just a class one misdemeanor, whose penalties include a maximum of six months jail time and a fine of up to $2,500 (not including surcharges). You may also be placed under probation.
However, if there are firearms involved, the charges will be more serious. According to the law, an individual who recklessly discharges, displays, or handles a firearm may be charged with a felony disorderly conduct. This carries with it heavier penalties, including prison time and larger fines.
And if there is an allegation of domestic violence involved, the charges worsen. Typically, the state may add a domestic violence designation to the disorderly conduct charge. This means that if you are convicted, there will be severe sanctions, including the requirement to undergo months of domestic violence counseling. If there are children involved, you may have problems obtaining custody of your children if a custody battle ensues. The court may also order you to find alternative living arrangements or not to contact family members.
While a conviction for disorderly conduct may seem relatively minor, it can have serious consequences on your life and your livelihood. An employer may see the conviction as a basis for not hiring you. You may also have difficulty securing education, housing, and other essential services.
If the police charge you with disorderly conduct, make sure you invoke your right to remain silent. For the state to convict you of disorderly conduct, they have to prove that you had “knowingly” “disturbed the peace.” Any statement that you make to the police may be used against you to show intent.
Despite what police would have you believe, staying silent does not mean you are guilty. Rather, it is a way of protecting yourself against possible abuse by law enforcement officers who may twist your words to secure a conviction.
An experienced attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed. Usually, it boils down to someone making a complaint against you and that person claiming that you knowingly bothered them. The state still has to prove intent beyond a reasonable doubt. The witness or complainant against you may also have ulterior motives or credibility issues that a lawyer can bring out in court.
Even if you are convicted, and this is your first offense, the judge may take this into account during sentencing and choose to give you a lighter sentence. For instance, they may only require you to render community service or pay a fine, and not sentence you to jail time.
Attorney Robert Dodell is an experienced defense attorney who can help you get the best outcome for your disorderly conduct case. He will conduct his own investigation to determine the facts, and use these to defend you if you go to trial. You need to protect yourself from a criminal record.