Of all the things a person could be charged with, “disorderly conduct” sounds rather tame. Another name for it is “disturbing the peace.”
But if it happens to you, realize that it’s because a police officer interpreted your conduct—whatever it was—as a disturbance. When you reach trial, it will be up to a judge to determine if what you were doing actually was disorderly conduct. That’s where a criminal defense attorney can make the difference.
Take even a first-time charge seriously. However tame it sounds, you could still be convicted, serve time in jail, pay fines, and walk away with a criminal record.
What North Carolina Considers Disorderly Conduct
North Carolina Code §14-288.4 describes disorderly conduct as “a public disturbance intentionally caused by any person” who commits any one of a number of described actions, such as:
- Fighting or other violent activity
- Abusive language, including abusive gestures
- Overtaking school premises without permission
- Refusing to leave a building after being asked to by either law enforcement or other administrator
- Interfering with or otherwise disrupting the teaching of students in any educational environment
- Congregating in any fashion after being told not to by law enforcement or other administrators
- Disturbing the peace on a school bus
- Interfering with or otherwise disturbing any religious activity
“Failing to disperse” is a similar charge that is sometimes used when three or more individuals do not leave as ordered by law enforcement after a period of time or creates the risk of injury to another person.
What Happens If I’m Arrested?
When you or a family member is charged with disorderly conduct and/or failure to disperse, it’s important to act quickly to be ready for a court appearance, and with good legal representation.
After your arrest, a judge may require you to post bail to leave, depending on any prior convictions you may have, and if the judge considers you to be a flight risk. If not, you may be released on a promise to appear for your court date without bail.
Right away, it’s time to find and retain legal counsel to begin building your defense. You need to be represented in court by someone who will defend you against the charges and give you the best chance at a positive outcome.
Convictions And Sentencing
For a first offense, you may be required to pay a fine without jail time. However, the judge’s discretion determines your sentencing.
Since Disorderly Conduct is a Class 2 misdemeanor, it’s possible to be sentenced to 60 days in jail with a $1,000 fine for a first offense. Second offenses are classified as a Class 1 felony, increasing jail time to as much as 12 months in prison. Third and subsequent offenses become Class H felonies, with as much as 25 months in prison.
If convicted, a criminal defense attorney may be able to get your charges reduced to a misdemeanor, or possibly dismissed outright.
When you find yourself in charged with disorderly conduct, remember to:
- Never resist arrest, even if you’re wrongly charged—that’s a separate charge for which you can be convicted
- Strongly exercise your right to remain silent, and only speak with your lawyer, no one else. Literally, anything you say can (and likely will) be used against you later.
- Find and retain a skilled and experienced Raleigh criminal defense lawyer who will investigate your case and create a compelling and persuasive defense strategy to have your charges dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.
Gather any available evidence that can prove your innocence as well, from digital information such as GPS coordinates, texts, and emails to physical evidence such as photographs, tickets, or other information that can positively prove your whereabouts at the time the crime was committed. Your attorney can use them when building your defense.
Call Dewey P. Brinkley For Disorderly Conduct Charges
False accusations do happen, but even if you have committed a crime, a strong defense is your best chance in court.
Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County prosecutor who will prepare a strong defense and make sure you receive a fair trial under the law. He has considerable experience defending those charged with disorderly conduct and works for the best possible outcome. Contact our Raleigh law office today at (919) 832-0307 for a free consultation.