Disorderly Conduct Laws – Pennsylvania

 

DISORDERLY CONDUCT (18 P.S. § 5503)

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when the person intends to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creates a risk thereof by doing any of the following:

  • fighting or threatening, or engaging in violent or tumultuous behavior;
  • making unreasonable noise;
  • using obscene language;
  • making an obscene gesture; or
  • creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

The offense of disorderly conduct covers a wide variety of behavior that the police in Pennsylvania may regard as criminal conduct.

GRADING

Disorderly conduct is generally considered a summary offense; however, if the Commonwealth can prove that the individual had the intent to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience or if he or she continues the conduct after reasonable warning, then it can be graded as a misdemeanor of the third degree.

PENALTIES

If graded as a summary offense, an individual may be subject to a maximum of 90 days of imprisonment and/or up to a $300.00 fine. If graded as a misdemeanor, an individual may be subject to a maximum of 1 year of imprisonment and/or up to a $2,500.00 fine. It is extremely rare for any individual to be imprisoned for disorderly conduct.

DEFENSE STRATEGIES

The disorderly conduct law is very broad and it can be interpreted to include many acts. As with any crime or offense, the Commonwealth must prove each and every element of the statute. For disorderly conduct in particular, a common strategy for the misdemeanor charge is to challenge the Commonwealth’s evidence of “intent” or whether the Commonwealth can prove “substantial” harm or “serious” inconvenience. Another defense strategy is to challenge whether the act caused “public” inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. The term “public” means “affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access”. Successfully challenging this element of the statute can also result in an acquittal.

Disorderly conduct is often used in plea deals since the statute is very broad, meaning it covers many bad acts. For example, an individual may be charged with public drunkenness, harassment and disorderly conduct. The individual may plead to the summary disorderly conduct charge while the other two charges are dismissed or “nolle prossed”.

CRIMINAL RECORD

Employers often perform background checks through the use of an investigator. In Pennsylvania, a simple internet search through the criminal dockets can reveal a plea or conviction to a disorder conduct charge. Therefore, individuals should always try to fight the charge in court. If a not guilty plea is entered or the case is dismissed, then the individual should file a petition with the court to have the charges expunged or removed from the individual’s record. Otherwise, if an individual does plead to a summary disorderly conduct, then the individual may file a petition for expungement after 5 years have passed.

HIRING A DISORDERLY CONDUCT DEFENSE LAWYER

Our lawyers will always work hard to resolve these matters with your arresting officer. We may be able to negotiate an alternative resolution that includes a dismissal of the charge or a reduction of other charges that may have been filed in addition to the disorderly conduct charge. Contact our firm today to discuss your disorderly conduct charge at 215-687-4053.