Disorderly conduct is the type of charge people associate with teenagers who play their music too loudly or who cause a raucous in public. Because of this perception, not many people take disorderly conduct charges seriously. They should, though, as a disorderly conduct conviction can result in fines and jail time.
According to FindLaw, “disorderly conduct” refers to the crime of intentionally creating or recklessly inciting an annoyance, inconvenience or fear in public. Though the statute prohibits any behavior that disturbs the peace in public, it specifically mentions making unreasonable noises; engaging in threatening, fighting or violent behavior; using obscene gestures or language; and creating physical hazards that serve no real purpose. Officers may use their discretion when arresting individuals for disorderly conduct, but generally, the law applies to situations involving bar fights, large parties and some peaceful protests.
The penalties for disorderly conduct
In most cases, disorderly conduct is a summary offense, which is a far lesser offense than a felony and a slightly lesser offense than a misdemeanor. A summary offense charge cannot result in a criminal conviction, but it can show up on a person’s criminal record. For this reason, persons should take disorderly conduct charges very seriously. Another reason individuals should take such charges seriously is that a summary offense conviction can result in fines of up to $1,500 and/or up to 90 days in jail.
When a summary offense becomes a misdemeanor
The state may elevate a disorderly conduct charge to a misdemeanor if certain elements exist. For instance, if the offender persisted with the conduct even after an officer asked him or her to stop, the state may decide to press misdemeanor charges. Likewise, if the offender engaged in disorderly conduct with the intention of causing substantial harm or serious inconvenience, the crime may become a third-degree misdemeanor. In Pennsylvania, a third-degree misdemeanor conviction is punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.