Disorderly Conduct in Colorado

The basics of Colorado's laws that prohibit acts of disturbing the peace.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated December 29, 2023

Colorado's laws against disorderly conduct criminalize a variety of different behaviors, including fighting in public, using offensive fighting words, displaying firearms, and rioting. Laws against disorderly conduct—sometimes called disturbing the peace or breach of the peace—can vary from state to state, and many municipalities also have their own regulations. However, the general goal of disorderly conduct laws is to prohibit behavior likely to upset or annoy others or disturb the community's peace.

What Is Disorderly Conduct in Colorado?

Colorado's disorderly conduct law prohibits the following intentional, knowing, or reckless behavior:

  • fighting in public
  • using fighting words or gestures—coarse and obviously offensive words or behaviors that tend to incite immediate violence
  • making unreasonable noise in a public place or near a private residence where the person had no right to be
  • discharging a firearm in public (when not a police officer or not engaged in lawful target practice, hunting, or military funeral), or
  • displaying a real or simulated firearm in public to alarm others (when not a police officer).

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Colorado

The behavior described in the first three bullets are petty offenses, punishable by up to 10 days of jail time and a $300 fine. However, if a person commits these acts to disrupt a funeral, the crime increases to a class 2 misdemeanor.

Displaying a firearm to alarm others carries penalties for a class 2 misdemeanor, and discharging a firearm in public is a class 1 misdemeanor.

A person convicted of a class 2 misdemeanor faces up to 120 days of jail time and a $750 fine. For a class 1 misdemeanor, the possible jail time goes up to 364 days and the maximum fine is $1,000.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct

Getting into a physical altercation at a bar or in a park would be an example of disorderly conduct, as would shooting a gun into the air at a party. These offenses, along with displaying a firearm to alarm others, are fairly straightforward.

In cases involving offensive noise or fighting words, though, context matters. These acts generally need to rise to the level of trying to provoke a violent response. For instance, chanting vulgar profanity at a peaceful protest might be considered offensive but wouldn't necessarily rise to the level of inciting violence. However, screaming that same profanity directly in someone's face could be.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-106 (2023).)

Other Colorado Crimes Related to Disorderly Conduct

Colorado addresses other acts of disturbing the peace under laws prohibiting riots, disruption of lawful assemblies, and obstruction of public passageways.

Riot Offenses

Colorado defines a riot as a public disturbance involving three or more persons that creates a serious risk of injury to persons or property or that obstructs a government function.

Engaging in a riot. A person who engages in a riot commits a class 2 misdemeanor. But if the person is armed with or uses some type of deadly weapon or device, rioting increases to a class 4 felony, which can mean two to six years of prison time.

Inciting others to riot is a class 1 misdemeanor. The offense becomes a class 5 felony, however, if the riot results in any injury to person or property. A class 5 felony carries one to three years of prison time.

Failure to disperse. If police, military, or other public safety officials order rioters to disperse, disobeying that order is a class 2 misdemeanor.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. §§ 18-9-101, 18-9-102, 18-9-104, 18-9-105 (2023).)

Disrupting a Lawful Assembly

It's a petty offense to significantly obstruct or interfere with a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering. A person can cause a disruption using physical acts, words, or other means. If the person knows the gathering is a funeral, the penalty increases to a class 2 misdemeanor.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-108 (2023).)

Obstructing a Highway or Other Passageway

Colorado makes it a petty offense to intentionally or recklessly obstruct a highway, street, sidewalk, railway, waterway, building entrance, elevator, aisle, stairway, or hallway with public access. The same penalty applies when a person disobeys an official order to leave any of these areas. It's a class 2 misdemeanor if the person obstructs access to a funeral or obstructs a funeral procession.

(Colo. Rev. Stat. § 18-9-107 (2023).)

Common Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges in Colorado

Because disorderly conduct crimes cover a broad range of activities, they tend to be subject to frequent constitutional challenges, including First Amendment challenges and overbreadth and vagueness challenges. For instance, disorderly conduct laws that violate a person's freedom of speech violate First Amendment rights. If the law prohibits lawful behavior (such as peaceful protests), it can be deemed unconstitutionally overbroad. A law is also unconstitutional if its language is so vague that the average person doesn't know what conduct is prohibited. For example, what is meant by "unreasonable noise"?

A defense attorney might also try to poke holes in the prosecution's case by stating the elements of a crime weren't proven. For instance, the attorney may argue the behavior wasn't offensive or disruptive, nor was it the type of behavior that would alarm a reasonable person. If the prosecutor can't prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, the jury must acquit.

Getting Legal Advice

If you face criminal charges for disorderly conduct or a related offense, contact a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can protect your rights, help you navigate the criminal system, and evaluate any defenses you might have.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you