Also known as disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct charges are very common. When someone acts in a manner that disrupts the ordinary piece of the community, that person can be charged with the crime of disorderly conduct. These crimes tend to arise when people are drunk, disruptive, loud, or otherwise engage in disruptive behavior. All states, as well as many municipalities, have disorderly conduct laws even though they may be known by other terms.
Disorderly conduct also applies in some situations where guns or firearms are involved. Because firearms are inherently dangerous, disorderly conduct charges may be more likely to arise if someone uses a firearm in a reckless manner. Cases involving guns may also lead to harsher penalties than other situations involving disorderly conduct.
Disorderly conduct charges are highly dependent upon the circumstances surrounding the events. For example, if you live in a residential neighborhood with a lot of people, you can commit disorderly conduct if you go out into the street late at night and start banging loudly on your trash cans. On the other hand, if you did that same activity in the middle of the day while you're in the middle of a loud construction site, this would not constitute disorderly conduct.
If you engage in disruptive conduct with a firearm, that can sometimes lead to a charge of disorderly conduct or breach of the peace. Brandishing a firearm or showing it to other people can result in a disorderly conduct charge, especially if you intend your actions to cause fear in others. For example, if you are at a party and you lift up your shirt to show someone that you are carrying a pistol in your waistband, this can be disorderly conduct. It's important to note that it doesn't matter if the weapon is loaded for you to be found guilty of this crime. Also, you might be charged with disorderly conduct if you fire a weapon in an attempt to scare someone. However, if you fire a weapon recklessly or without caring that your actions might lead to someone else being harmed, this can lead to more serious assault charges.
Disorderly conduct is one of the more minor crimes with which you can be charged. However, states also have other laws that might apply to the same conduct in some situations. For example, if you display your firearm in an angry or threatening manner at someone else, such as by aiming it at them or threatening to use it, you will likely face more severe charges, such as making criminal threats.
Disorderly conduct charges are usually misdemeanor offenses, though felony charges are possible in some situations. A misdemeanor is a less serious than felony, and is punishable by up to a year in jail. Felony charges, on the other hand, have more significant penalties associated with them and can lead to a year or more in prison.
Incarceration. Misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges have potential penalties of up to a year in jail, even though that doesn't necessarily mean someone convicted will that much time. For example, state law might allow for a maximum penalty for misdemeanor conviction of up to six months in jail. A court could choose to impose a much lesser sentence, such 30 days. For felony convictions, the sentence could be a year in a state prison or longer.
Fines. Many disorderly conduct convictions come with a fine. The fine amounts will differ significantly depending on the state and the circumstances of the crime, but fines of up to $1,000 or more are possible. Typically, much lower fines of as little as $25 can be imposed, but fines in the $250 to $500 range are more common.
Probation. Disorderly conduct involving a firearm can also result in a probation sentence. Someone on probation must follow specific rules or conditions for a period of 12 months or more. Anyone on probation must comply with these conditions or face additional fines, extended probation sentences, or even face jail time. Probation conditions usually involve paying all required fines, sometimes performing community service, maintaining employment, and staying out of any more legal trouble.
While disorderly conduct charges are often very minor and will not significantly disrupt your life, any crime that involves a firearm can quickly escalate into a more significant situation. If you are charged with or investigated for a firearms-related disorderly conduct crime, you need to speak to a local criminal defense attorney right away. You can unknowingly damage your case if you make decisions or speak to the police without first consulting with a local attorney. Attorneys in your area are the only ones qualified to provide you with legal advice because they know the laws and have personal experience dealing with criminal courts, prosecutors, and police.