Disorderly Conduct

August 26, 2016 Blog

What is Disorderly Conduct? According to Florida Statute Section 877.03, Disorderly Conduct is any act considered sufficient enough to “corrupt the public morals,” or “outrage the sense of public decency,” or “affect the peace and quiet of persons” who may observe the act. Fighting and brawling are also included as acts of Disorderly Conduct.

According to Florida law, Breach of Peace or Disorderly Conduct is a second degree misdemeanor and can carry a sentence of up to 60 days in jail or 6 months of probation and a fine of $500. If you are a first-time offender and the conduct involved extremely disruptive or disrespectful acts against police and/or endangered public safety (especially when drugs or alcohol is involved), then there is a very real possibility that you will spend some time in jail, though usually less than 60 days. And of course, if you are a first-time offender, you now have a permanent criminal record and possibly a probation sentence.
Thankfully, Disorderly Conduct is one of the most defendable charges in Florida. Even though the Florida Statute includes broad wording, it is tough for a conviction to stand when the accused has only created an annoyance, caused a crowd to gather around, is generally belligerent or uses profanity.

When the charges involve only verbal conduct, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution limits the application of Florida’s Disorderly Conduct statute to what they call “fighting words” or “words like shouts of ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

What are “Fighting Words?” These are defined as words that, by merely being uttered, can inflict injury or can incite an immediate breach of the peace.

So you can see that using words alone is generally not sufficient to sustain a conviction for Disorderly Conduct, given the strict construction of Section 877.03 of the Florida Statute.

What happens if you lose your cool and yell and scream at a police officer? What about using profanity to a police officer? Police officers do not have any type of privilege when it comes to First Amendment speech protections, so generally, a defendant can’t be convicted for Disorderly Conduct just by yelling or swearing at a police officer. However, when the yelling and screaming and profanity are coupled with any type of non-verbal conduct which prevents the ability of the police officer to do his or her job, it is more than likely that a Disorderly Conduct conviction will be allowed to stand.

Being annoying in public, or being loud or belligerent is not enough to sustain a conviction for Disorderly Conduct/Breach of Peace.

What if you want to make a speech on a street corner and a crowd gathers around you? Is that Disorderly Conduct? Again, the First Amendment does not allow an individual to be criminalized just because what they have to say causes people to notice them and gather around. However, if your words incite a crowd into responding in a way that threatens to breach the peace, you could be charged with Disorderly Conduct.

If you or someone you know has been arrested for Disorderly Conduct, it is imperative that they find a criminal attorney in the early stages of the case with experience in these matters. There are a number of defenses available to contest a charge of Disorderly Conduct or Breach of Peace and an experienced attorney can help you avoid a conviction, jail time, probation and provide you with the best possible defense for a favorable outcome.

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