Disorderly conduct is not a major offense. When thinking of it, people might envision unruly individuals making noise at night or performing irritating, but not necessarily harmful, acts in public.
While these may fall under the crime’s umbrella, the reality is that in Pennsylvania, so may many other actions since the law defines it very broadly. Because of this, there is the potential for misinterpretation.
What counts as disorderly conduct?
The state considers any conduct where a person with the intent of causing annoyance, public inconvenience, alarm or reckless risk makes unreasonable noise, uses obscene language or gestures, creates an offensive or dangerous environment or becomes physically violent or intimidating to be disorderly conduct. This encompasses many behaviors. Examples include loitering, public drunkenness and violating noise ordinances.
What are the penalties for disorderly conduct?
It is a summary offense (the most minor type in the state). Potential punishments include a maximum fine of $300 and up to 90 days in jail. There is also a chance for the upgrading of the charge to a misdemeanor of the third degree. This may occur in cases involving intoxication, property damage or harm done to another person. In such an instance, the sentence faced may be more severe, with the highest penalties possible being a $2,500 fee and a year locked up.
What are possible defenses against disorderly conduct?
Those facing such an accusation may claim ignorance of the nuisance nature of what they did. The prosecution must prove intent and knowledge, without which the charge cannot stick. Self-defense, provocation and age are also possible defenses.
There are many actions for which a person may end up in court under the disorderly conduct statute. However, there exist ways to fight against such allegations.