Disorderly Conduct in Montana

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In Montana, disorderly conduct can mean a lot of different things, from making a false report of a bomb to interrupting and yelling at a public meeting and from honking unnecessarily to blocking access to an abortion clinic. Montana’s disorderly conduct law criminalizes behavior that is likely to upset, anger, or annoy others.

For more information on disorderly conduct, see Disorderly Conduct Laws and Penalties.

Disorderly Conduct

In 2013, the Montana Legislature amended its disorderly conduct law. The new law goes into effect October 1, 2013. Under the new law, a person commits the crime of disorderly conduct if the person disturbs the peace by:

  • fighting or challenging others to fight
  • making loud or excessive noise
  • using obscene, threatening, or abusive language
  • blocking vehicular or pedestrian traffic or a building entrance
  • disrupting a lawful meeting or assembly
  • falsely reporting a fire, an impending explosion, or some other emergency, or
  • creating a hazardous or offensive condition that serves no legitimate purpose.

In order to be convicted, the person's actions must upset or bother other people. For example, strewing garbage in a public road may be considered disorderly conduct. Yelling obscenities against a police officer, such that a crowd forms, could also be considered disorderly conduct. Repeatedly honking the horn while driving by a campground and waking the campers could also result in a disorderly conduct conviction. However, urinating on the side of the road at night could not result in a conviction so long as the person attempted to be modest and did not bother anyone else.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45–8–101.)

Failure to Disperse

A police officer, judge, or mayor may order two or more people who are engaged in disorderly conduct to stop and leave the area. Failing to follow an order to disperse is also a crime. For example, if two people get into a heated argument and scuffle at a school board meeting and a police officer asks them to step outside and they refuse, they could be convicted of failure to disperse.

(Mont. Code Ann. § 45–8–102.)

Riot

A person participates in a riot by gathering with five or more people and intentionally disturbing the peace and tranquility of the community by committing or threatening an act of violence that risks or results in injury or property damage. It is also a crime to incite (urge others) to riot. Riot and inciting a riot are punished more severely if the defendant is incarcerated in an adult prison or jail.

(Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45–8–103, 45-8-104.)

Picketing

It is also a crime in Montana to picket a funeral or memorial service, or block another person’s access to a health care facility. Montana’s funeral picketing law was enacted to stop extremist groups (like the Westboro Baptist Church) from picketing funerals. The health care law was enacted to place a buffer between protestors and women seeking services at clinics that provide abortions.

(Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45-8-110, 45-8-116.)

Public Intoxication

In Montana, it is a crime to walk on a public street while intoxicated.

For more information, see Montana Public Intoxication Laws.

Punishment

Falsely reporting a bomb is punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. Other kinds of disorderly conduct and failure to disperse are punishable by up to ten days in jail or a fine of up to $100, or both. Riot and inciting a riot are punishable by up to six months in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Riot and incitement in a correctional facility are felonies, punishable by one to five years in prison. Blocking access to a health care facility is punishable by a fine of up to $100. Funeral picketing is punishable by a fine of $250 to $1,000, up to 12 months in jail, or both.

(Mont. Code Ann. §§ 45–8–101, 45–8–102, 45–8–103, 45-8-104, 45-8-110, 45-8-116.)

Obtaining Legal Assistance

Any criminal conviction, even one that results from seemingly trivial misbehavior, can result in serious consequences, such as time in jail, a fine, and a criminal record. If you are charged with disorderly conduct, or any other crime in Montana, you should talk to a local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can tell you what to expect in court based on the charges and the assigned judge and prosecutor. With an attorney’s help, you can protect your rights and make sure that you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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