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Disorderly conduct criminalizes actions such as: saying offensive things in order to cause a violent reaction, protesting at funerals, rioting, and falsely reporting a fire. From a policy perspective, these actions are believed to unreasonably disturb the peace of the community. Disorderly conduct laws are subjective in their wording and how they are applied in real world situations.
One may believe that Washington’s state law against disorderly conduct infringe on their federal constitutional rights to free speech under the First Amendment. Generally, these challenges have not been successful when argued.
In the State of Washington, disorderly conduct can occur in a number of different ways. Although there may be other forms of disorderly conduct, below are the ways disorderly conduct normally occurs.
Uses abusive language and thereby intentionally creates a risk of assault.
Intentionally disrupts any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority.
Intentionally obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority.
Falsely report an emergency knowing that the report is likely to result in an evacuation or cause public inconvenience or alarm.
Fail to disperse when ordered to do so by law enforcement or another public official.
Certain methods of funeral picketing.
A disorderly conduct charge can have serious consequences. Although disorderly conduct is almost always charged as a misdemeanor, it can be charged as a felony under certain conditions. Typically, you could incur the following penalties if convicted:
While the jail time is often short, it could last up to a year if convicted of a misdemeanor. First-time offenders will likely not see any jail time. The court will likely suspend the sentence and enter a time served sentence. This means the time already spent in jail will satisfy the court. Repeat offenders could get more time. If the offense is serious, you could spend a year in jail.
Fines for disorderly conduct could range from $25 up to $1,000 or more. Most jurisdictions levy fines as opposed to jail time. Probation is also an option.
Probation is also a common sentence for first-time offenders. It is not uncommon for a person charged with disorderly conduct to receive several months of probation. If probation is violated in any way, the court could also change the punishment to jail time.
If you are charged with disorderly conduct, you will need to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you make your case and give you the best chance of having the charges dropped. If the charges are dropped, your attorney may be able to get your record expunged.
Regardless of the degree charged the goals remains the same. We will help you avoid conviction for the criminal charge, but perhaps more importantly, keep you out of jail.