Washington DC Disorderly Conduct Lawyer

Some of the most open-ended and versatile criminal charges that police can accuse a defendant of committing are those of disorderly conduct. This can include behavior that ranges from causing fear of property damage in another’s mind to playing loud music, to public urination.

While these are minor offenses, a conviction could still result in a significant fine, a jail sentence, and the creation of a permanent criminal record. Because of this, it is essential that defendants facing allegations of disorderly conduct take the allegations seriously.

Hiring a Washington DC disorderly conduct lawyer could help to prevent the negative effects of a conviction. Whether a person’s goal is to come to a fair plea deal in the hopes of avoiding jail time or is to fight the charges at trial, a persistent attorney could help make those goals a reality.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct in DC

Disorderly conduct tends to be the charge used by police when they want to get a disruptive person off the streets and into custody. Still, there are specific definitions that the defendant’s behavior must meet for the arrest to be legal. According to DC Code §22-1321, examples of disorderly conduct include:

  • Engaging in loud or disruptive behavior that is intended to disrupt a legal public gathering
  • Making loud noise between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. that is likely to disturb people at home
  • Urinating or defecating in public
  • Jostling or crowding another person
  • Abusive language
  • Recklessly putting someone in reasonable fear
  • Unnecessary jostling, crowding, or placing a hand near another person’s belongings
  • Stealthily looking into someone’s window

Intentionally or Recklessly Putting Someone Else in Reasonable Fear

Intentionally or recklessly putting someone else in reasonable fear of person or property is a broad category of disorderly conduct. Essentially, it is the sort of behavior that could make a person afraid that they will be harmed or that their property will be damaged or taken. An individual could be charged with this type of public disturbance if they are behaving recklessly and instilling fear in another person.

Abusive or Offensive Language

Abusive or offensive language is another broadly-defined type of disorderly conduct, one which has two categories. The first is language that is likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation or violence. However, there is no strict definition of what sort of words or actions would meet these definitions. Therefore, the language must usually be extremely abusive or offensive, and must also be ongoing. Usually, the other person would ask the defendant to stop—or the accused person may have multiple opportunities to stop—before it would rise to the level of abusive or offensive behavior.

The other type of abusive language is the kind used with the intent of disrupting the conduct of a public gathering or congregation of people. This offense usually requires a more specific type of language. However, it is important to discern whether the language in question was disruptive to the gathering or event, or whether it was merely an exercise of First Amendment rights. As a result, a common defense would be that free speech is allowed in this country, and that the accused person was merely exercising these rights by expressing their opinion. Due to these nuances, having the council and knowledge of a DC disorderly conduct lawyer could prove useful.

Making Unreasonably Loud Noise

Another type of disorderly conduct is being unreasonably loud between the hours of 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. in DC. Usually, this noise would have to be likely to disturb one or more other persons in their residences. By virtue, what constitutes unreasonable loud noise is subjective. In certain cases, of course, certain facts might make it rather obvious whether the defendant has been loud. However, if a person’s case contains subjective terms and no clear definition, an accused person could claim that the noise was not, in fact, unreasonable. Furthermore, because it must be shown that the noise would likely disturb someone in their home, any offense that occurs in a commercial area where no one lives will usually not be valid.

Looking Stealthily into a Window or Other Opening

Disorderly conduct by looking stealthily into a window or other opening is a very specific offense. Essentially, when an individual is looking in a window or other opening where another person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, it is considered disorderly conduct. Furthermore, it does not matter if there is anybody home—an individual cannot go sneaking around and looking through people’s windows.

A possible defense that a disorderly conduct lawyer in DC could use for this charge, however, is whether the occupant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. It is a subjective term and, therefore, one could argue that there are certain instances where this expectation is unreasonable, such as a resident who lives close to a public area. For example, if the person looking through the window or opening was on public property, it may be hard to argue that the occupant had a reasonable expectation of privacy. As a result, whether or not a charge is valid would depend on the specific facts of a case, which could be investigated in depth by DC

Unnecessary Jostling, Crowding, or Placing a Hand Near Another Person’s Handbag, Pocketbook, or Wallet

If an individual is getting close to another person and making it seem as though they might try to pickpocket them, this could also be considered a form of disorderly conduct. This charge may occur on the subway, on the metro, or in crowded places on the street. Of course, these charges can be elevated to theft if something is actually taken.

Many of these definitions are open to interpretation. Ultimately, it is for a jury to decide if the defendant’s actions meet these definitions beyond a reasonable doubt. A Washington DC disorderly conduct lawyer could help to cross-examine witnesses and discredit evidence to create this reasonable doubt.

Possible Defenses to a Public Disturbance Charge

Anyone accused of disorderly conduct should be aware of the type of defenses that might be viable—depending on the circumstances of their case. For example, there might be room for a knowledgeable DC attorney familiar with disorderly conduct claims to argue over what is reasonable fear. Therefore, it could be argued that a charge is worded rather vaguely and—because many of these charges are based on a lack of actual harm—this might be a valid defense.

This is because, if a person was physically injured or if something has been taken, defendants are typically charged with theft or assault. Without any actual harm occurring, there is a great deal of room to argue that the person was not acting intentionally. Since these are very subjective terms, an attorney might be able to argue that the person’s conduct did not actually meet the definition of disorderly conduct.

The approach for a defense depends on the charges at hand, of course. For example, disorderly conduct by inciting or provoking violence is typically charged on the basis of an accused individual’s verbal conduct. This could involve arguing with someone, threatening them, or attempting to goad them into a fight. In terms of defenses, then, there is no clear line that distinguishes free speech or a heated argument that is not criminal, to the crime of disorderly conduct of inciting or provoking violence.

Simply put, there must be a likelihood that some violence will ensue, which is very subjective. Because there is no clear definition of what constitutes this, it must be shown that the conduct somehow went beyond mere words in order to prove—beyond a reasonable doubt—that the defendant was inciting or provoking violence, and not simply exercising free speech. Due to the subjective nature of many allegations, this is often difficult for a prosecution to prove.

The Potential Consequences for Conviction

Disorderly conduct is always a misdemeanor level crime. However, a conviction could still have disastrous consequences for a defendant. The law states that a conviction could result in a jail term of up to 90 days. Thankfully, this is unlikely unless the defendant already has a lengthy criminal record. The law also may require a defendant to pay a heavy fine.

It is also possible that a defendant may be sentenced to probation. Typically, this includes a no-contact order with any specific victim or attendance in substance abuse counseling if this was a cause of the poor behavior. If a defendant completes these terms of probation, the charge may be removed from their record.

If the court finds the defendant guilty, this conviction will remain on a defendant’s criminal record. This could affect many portions of their lives from their job prospects to where they can live. It is essential that people protect their futures, even in the event of a minor charge like disorderly conduct.

Speaking with a Washington DC Disorderly Conduct Attorney

Allegations of disorderly conduct may seem like a minor inconvenience. However, a conviction could result in significant jail time, the payment of stiff fines, and the creation of a criminal record. This could complicate a defendant’s life for years to come.

A Washington DC disorderly conduct lawyer fight to prevent this from happening. Attorneys work with individuals to identify realistic goals and to develop a strategy to achieve them in court. Whether these goals are to come to a plea deal for a term of probation or to present a case to a jury at trial, a disorderly conduct lawyer may be able to help. Contact an attorney today to discuss your case.