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Disorderly Conduct: Everything You Need to Know

Disorderly conduct is a common arrest and charge in California. While it may seem petty as a criminal offense, a conviction does have consequences that can affect your life. Also, you can find yourself arrested for this offense in a variety of ways as the laws regarding disorderly conduct cover many types of actions. Overall, this offense involves disrupting “public order.” It is also often referred to as disturbing the peace.

Either way you refer to it, a disorderly conduct conviction can result in a misdemeanor on your criminal record. That record can derail your chances of landing a job, a rental unit, or a professional license. As in any criminal offense, your best bet is to engage the services of a competent defense attorney who knows how to create an effective defense. We suggest you contact Appel & Morse where you can find representation backed by 40 years of combined experience.

California’s Law on Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is covered under California Penal Code 647 while disturbing the peace is detailed in California Penal Code 415. Engaging in loud and often obscene language or brawling in a bar are the most common ideas associated with disorderly conduct. However, these laws list specific ways you can be arrested for both disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct, including:

  1. Engaging in some type of public sexual misconduct. This conduct can include soliciting or engaging in prostitution in a public place, soliciting another for, or engaging in, lewd behavior in a public place, hanging around a public restroom in order to solicit or engage in lewd behavior, or spying on others in a “peeping Tom” situation (an invasion of privacy) for the purpose of one’s own sexual gratification.
  2. Panhandling or begging for cash or food in a public place that disrupts citizens or a business.
  3. Hanging around or lodging in someone else’s building or structure without the owner’s permission (commonly referred to as “squatting”). The building may be private or public but the key here is that you are actually trespassing.
  4. Being drunk and disorderly in a public place to the point where the safety of others around you is threatened or violated. This can include being disorderly from drugs as well as alcohol. The typical example here is disturbing people or property in a bar or nightclub when you throw a glass of alcohol across the room because something or someone offends you. Another example could be where you pass out from drugs in the doorway of a store, impeding the flow of traffic for customers and degrading the owner’s premises and business.
  5. Fighting or egging someone on to engage in a fight in a public place that, once again, is disruptive to others in the same space. Here is your typical bar brawl that could end up in damage to both people and property.
  6. Engaging in unreasonably loud behavior that disturbs others. Blasting your stereo or TV at 2 a.m. in an apartment building or disturbing your neighbors with a loud party that goes on all night could qualify as disruptive behavior.
  7. Engaging in offensive language that is provocative and likely to cause violence is also considered a disturbance of the peace in a public place.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

The penalties for the misdemeanor offense of disorderly conduct include a county jail sentence of up to six months and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Penalties for Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the peace is also a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $400.

Other Laws Associated with Disorderly Conduct

Other California laws may also be associated with disorderly conduct. These include California Penal Code 404 – Rioting and California Penal Code 416 – Failure to Disperse. Rioting consists of using or threatening to use unlawful violence in a public space. Failing to disperse occurs when two or more people disturb people in a public place and refuse to disperse when instructed to by law enforcement. Failing to disperse only applies to an unlawful assembly, however, since it is a constitutional right to assemble. Whether or not your assembly is lawful would likely be judged on a case-by-case basis. Both offenses are charged as misdemeanors.

Rioting is punishable by up to a year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Failure to disperse is punishable by up to six months in jail and possible restitution for any damages to victims.

Turn to Appel & Morse for Capable Legal Help

When faced with a criminal charge, even one that seems minor, you should seek advice on how best to proceed from an attorney who is experienced with the laws and the local courts. Saving yourself from the negative effects of a criminal record should be a priority. At Appel & Morse, we can provide seasoned legal representation to help you put your best foot forward in any criminal arrest or charge.

Ready to discuss your case? Call us at (805) 467-6060 or contact us online to get started today.