What is Disorderly Conduct?
Disorderly Conduct falls into a category of crimes that is very general. Arrests for Disorderly Conduct often arise when a police officer finds your behavior to be rude or unruly. This opens the public up for potentially overzealous police officers to abuse their powers and arrest people they simply find “offensive”. It is an excuse for a police officer to take you off of the street. The crime of Disorderly Conduct is very hard for the State Attorney to prove.
Under Florida Law a Person commits Disorderly Conduct if they commit an act that:
- Corrupts the public morals
- Outrages the sense of public decency
- Affects the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them
A person could also be charged with Disorderly Conduct if they engage in brawling or fighting or other conduct that constitutes a breach of the peace.
Disorderly Intoxication is almost the exact same charge as Disorderly conduct with the added element of Intoxication. The state attorney has to prove that you were intoxicated at the time you allegedly committed the Disorderly Conduct. This usually poses a problem for prosecutors because police officers almost never conduct Field Sobriety Exercised or a breathalyzer at the time of arrest for Disorderly Intoxication.
The indicators of intoxication are usually superficial and can be explained away by a number of different arguments. This is why Disorderly Intoxication is a very rare crime to see prosecuted in county court. It is much easier to prove a disorderly conduct, and prosecutors will almost always go for the easier crime to prove.
Some common examples of an arrest for Disorderly Conduct or Disorderly Intoxication:
- Physical fights in public places
- Screaming profanity in a public place
- Blocking traffic on the roads or sidewalk
- Public drunkenness
Disorderly Conduct and disorderly intoxication are 2nd Degree Misdemeanors and is punishable by up to 60 days in county jail, up to 6 months of probation and up to $500.00 in fines.
Defenses to Disorderly Conduct or Intoxication
The 1st Amendment right to free speech protects our words from being prosecuted criminally. Specifically, State v. Saunders, 339 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1976), limits disorderly conduct through speech alone to only speech which causes injury or tends to incite an immediate breach of peace, or speech known to be false that endangers public safety.
That is why speech alone will not generally support a conviction for disorderly conduct. Barry v. State 934 So.2d 656 (2nd DCA 2006). To sustain finding of disorderly conduct there must be evidence of something more than loud or profane language or belligerent attitude. Miller v. State 667 So.2d 325 (1st DCA 1995).
The Saunders case tells us that speech can constitute criminal disorderly conduct and will not be protected if it is equivalent to “fighting words”. Example of Fighting Words is shouting “fire” in a crowded theater. Fighting Words must incite a reaction from other people or a crowd which creates more than just curiosity. The words used must incite another person to engage in an immediate breach of the peace.
A common arrest for Disorderly Conduct involves a defendant cursing at or insulting a police officer on the street while the police officer is conducting an investigation or otherwise ordering the defendant to do something. Most often, this type of behavior will result in an arrest for Disorderly Conduct and Resisting/Obstructing a Police Officer.
Other cases for Disorderly Conduct involve fighting or brawling in public. In these situations, an officer must be able to determine who the primary aggressor to the fight was. If you are properly defending yourself against an attacker on the street, you cannot be prosecuted for disorderly conduct.
Contact a Broward County Disorderly Conduct Attorney
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