In the State of Florida, disorderly conduct, also known as ‘breach of peace,’ occurs when a person interrupts or disturbs the peace and quiet in a public area, engages in a fight out in public, or outrageous public decency. When convicted of such an event, it is considered a second-degree misdemeanor. Penalties for such a conviction can include probation, jail time, and a permanent criminal record.
For the most part, people tend to exhibit their best version of themselves when they are out in public. There are situations; however, when this is tested, and things quickly get out of control, and police are called to diffuse actions. If the police feel your actions or behavior is out of line and you are causing a breach of the peace, or your conduct is disorderly, they can arrest you for disorderly conduct.
If this situation happens, you may feel disbelief or shame. Still, you should know that by contacting a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney right away, you could protect yourself against these charges.
Legal Definition of Disorderly Conduct
Under Section 877.03 of the Florida Statutes, disorderly conduct is defined as a breach of peace. When an individual acts in a manner which:
- Corrupts public morals
- Or outrages the public’s sense of moral decency
- Interrupts or affects the peace and quiet of another person
- Engages in a public fight or brawl
- Or commits such conduct that is considered a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct
They can be found guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor and punished according to 775..082 s 775.083.
The terms used in breach of peace or disorderly conduct can include a variety of factual scenarios. What the public and law officials see as disorderly conduct may not necessarily fall within the legal definition of the law. If you’ve been arrested for disorderly conduct, contact the defense team at Arnold Law. You will need legal representation against these charges as they can impact your future criminal record.
There is a general yet broad list of behaviors that could be classified as disorderly conduct under Florida regulations. Some of the disruptive conduct that could lead to an arrest for disorderly conduct by the police include:
- Loitering in certain public places
- Arguing or fighting in public
- Public intoxication
- Abusive language
- Blocking roadways or traffic
- Excessive noise
- Inciting a riot
- Nonviolent encounters with law enforcement
These are just a small example of what could lead to an arrest for disorderly conduct. Under certain circumstances, if you are arrested for participating in these activities, you could be charged with a third-degree felony or more serious misdemeanor charges.
Often times, a person faces charges of disorderly conduct because they have gotten into a loud argument with a partner or spouse, or they let their emotions get away while arguing with a stranger. Sometimes disorderly conduct can apply when someone acts goofy or silly and makes a lot of noise for any reason and disturbs the peace of those around them. Playing your radio too loud in your car on a public street can sometimes lead to complaints and a disorderly conduct charge.
Examples of when people have been charged with disorderly conduct:
- College students decide to blast their music in a quiet library, and when asked to stop as they are disturbing others, they refuse
- A couple of people become engaged in a shouting match outside a local bar
- A person sets up a musical instrument in an outdoor shopping mall area, and the sounds are unpleasant. When asked to stop and leave the area, they refuse
- A person parks outside a restaurant and begins playing extremely loud music. When asked to leave, they refuse
If a person is under the influence of alcohol and charged with disorderly conduct, this charge is considered disorderly intoxication and involves a separate state statute.
Penalties if Convicted of Disorderly Conduct
As a second-degree misdemeanor in the State of Florida, if convicted of disorderly conduct, you could face up to sixty days in jail or six months of probation along with a $5,000 fine. These are the statutory maximum penalties available for this charge and not always the sentence issued in a large number of these cases.
First-time offenders who have been highly disrespectful or performed disruptive actions towards police, or if they posed an imminent threat to public safety, may face jail time up to sixty days, especially if their actions were connected to drugs or alcohol. Typically, the first time offender’s primary concern of penalty is having a criminal record established on their name, receiving probation time, and having to perform community service.
Repeat offenders, or if you have an extensive criminal history when arrested for disorderly conduct, jail time is more of a possibility. If the prosecution determines this is the necessary penalty for your crime, it can almost become a probability without the right defense attorney working with you.
Defending a Charge of Disorderly Conduct
Of all the legal charges in the State of Florida, disorderly conduct is the most defensible charge you can receive. There is a broad wording under this statute, and a conviction cannot generally stand if you’ve been accused of creating an annoyance, are charged with using profanity in a crowd, or merely displayed a belligerent attitude. Verbal misconduct is also not sufficient cause for a conviction. Contact Arnold Law if you have been accused of disorderly conduct to ensure your rights are protected as well as your criminal record. With an experienced defense attorney, you can ensure your criminal record is not affected by these alleged charges.
Often times during a disorderly conduct charge, police arrest persons involved without asking questions first. Law officials take this action in an attempt to get the situation under control and protect individuals and any property involved. Because of this quick action to arrest without questioning, there are solid forms of defense against your charges:
- You were engaging in self-defense
- Your rights are protected under the First Amendment
- You were on private property during the incident
There is a multitude of defenses against a disorderly conduct charge depending on the nature of the crime. Your best chances of fighting these charges and a possible conviction are to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Arnold Law. The prosecution bears the burden of proof for these charges and must prove each element of the crime charged. These types of charges hinge a lot on the testimony provided by eye-witnesses who frequently fail to appear in court. Without eye-witness support, it is often hard to prove any facts related to the charges.
When it comes to freedom of speech in our country, the Constitution provides a wide latitude to say things even if others find them outrageous or offensive. While there are some limits as to what can be yelled in a crowd or out in public, most of what we say is constitutionally protected.
Under Florida State Law and as indicated by State Statute 877.03, Chapter XLVI, the members of a criminal jury are instructed that before handing sentence, the court must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant facing disorderly conduct charges has:
- Corrupted the morals of the public through their actions
- Outrage public decency
- Through their actions, disrupted the peace and quiet of anyone who was witness to the event in question
- Took an active part in a fight or brawl
The First Amendment and Verbal Disorderly Conduct
The United States Constitution restricts the charges of Florida’s disorderly conduct statute of so-called ‘fighting words’ or ‘shouts of words that cause public alarm.’ Under your constitutional rights, ‘fighting words’ are defined as being words by their utterance that have inflicted injury or were intended to incite an immediate breach of peace.
The Florida Supreme Court, further clarifies these words to be ‘false in nature, and used to report some physical danger in situations where uttering such words, created a clear and present danger of bodily harm to others.’ An example of such ‘fighting words’ would include shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.
The strict construction of Section 877.03 means words alone are not generally sufficient to withhold a conviction of disorderly conduct. It would have to be proven the words were used to incite a crowd or cause immediate danger to a group by the use of loud speech. Profanity is not sufficient to support a disorderly conduct conviction. The First Amendment protects offensive speech and profanity and is therefore not grounds for arrest of disorderly conduct.
Profanity is protected under the First Amendment unless it involves physical harm. A person cannot be charged with disorderly conduct if they are yelling at someone or swearing in public. Just because someone walks outside a building and witnesses an argument between others that may include swearing, they cannot claim disorderly conduct.
Jury rules under Florida Statutes cover disorderly conduct when these charges can raise concerns in a state court. If a defendant states their actions fall under the protected speech category, the courts are required to take proper action to ensure a jury does not convict someone who has exercised their constitutional rights.
If the event is considered complete verbal abuse, the case can become a little tricky. The First Amendment of the Constitution and Florida State Constitution, Article I state these rights to exercise free speech in a bit more detail:
- Floridians, and United States Citizens have the right to speak on any subject, but must be prepared to face the consequences of any actions
- People can exercise the liberty of free speech as there are no existing laws to prevent them from doing so
- The truth of the situation can be used as evidence in criminal prosecutions
- If the speech is supported as free speech than a defendant cannot be charged with disorderly conduct
Profanity Against Police and Disorderly Conduct
Law officials or police are not given a privileged position in regard to the First Amendment speech protections. A person cannot be convicted for disorderly conduct just because they have used swear words or profanity when dealing with the police, or if they yell loudly at an officer.
The First Amendment does not protect all speech towards police officers. If your speech is coupled with non-verbal conduct that infringes on the officer’s ability to perform their duties, you could then face a conviction of disorderly conduct. Yelling or cursing loudly, even if considered belligerent or annoying it is not sufficient grounds for a conviction of disorderly conduct or a breach of peace.
Disorderly conduct can, however, include resisting arrest in any manner by a police officer or any other act, including abuse. Under the law, any individual who is physically or verbally abusive to a member of law enforcement is subject to charges of a first-degree misdemeanor.
Law enforcement officials who fall under this protection include:
- An individual who drives an ambulance or gives medical care, such as an EMT or nurse. This definition can also include hospital employees, doctors, agents, or volunteers at a hospital under certain circumstances.
- Any person who is responsible for putting out or extinguishing fires and rescuing people from these emergency situations
- Officers of the law working in corrections, auxiliary corrections, correctional probation, or law enforcement
- People who are authorized to operate public trains, or buses, those collecting revenue, security members and any person trained to maintain municipal equipment
Many times a charge of disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication can become interwoven with other charges. Situations that involve routine blood-alcohol testing or drunk driving incidents may incur these and other more severe charges.
Gathering a Crowd is not Disorderly Conduct
The First Amendment Right to free speech permits an act that will have people take notice and result in the gathering of a crowd. If by using a loud voice or the shout of words causes others to come outside or stop and take notice to observe an event, it does not constitute disorderly conduct or breach of peace. In order for this type of event becoming a disorderly conduct charge, it would have to be proven the action or words were causing the crowd to threaten somehow or breach the peace.
Self Defense Against Disorderly Conduct Charge
Prosecutors do not often find it possible to use self-defense against a disorderly conduct charge. However, your attorney at Arnold Law may be able to use this defense if you did not provoke the altercation or fight. This defense can be effective when there are allegations that involve brawling or fighting in public. Once your attorney shows evidence to support your self-defense, the prosecution will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt; your actions did not sustain this defense in order to convict you.
Self-defense can be a strong defense strategy, as long as it cannot be proven, you picked or provoked the fight. If you and your attorney can show an assailant attacked you and not the culprit, there is a good chance that your charges will be dropped.
There are a number of defense strategies against a charge of disorderly conduct. You will want an experienced defense attorney from the Arnold Law firm on your side if charged with this crime. With the proper defense strategy, you can avoid a possible conviction that could result in jail time or a permanent criminal record.
Is Disorderly Conduct the same as Disorderly Intoxication?
Disorderly intoxication is handled under a separate state statute from disorderly conduct. Disorderly Intoxication falls under Florida Statute 856.011(1) and is defined as being under the influence or intoxicated and endangering the safety of another person or property. It is considered disorderly intoxication if you are found to be intoxicated or are drinking any form of alcoholic beverage in a public place, and while in that public area are causing a public disturbance. It is considered illegal in the State of Florida to:
- Endanger another person’s safety
- Endanger another’s property
- Cause a public disturbance or drink alcohol in public
Disorderly intoxication is a second-degree misdemeanor if convicted, and sentencing can include up to sixty days in jail along with up to $500 in fines. This conviction would also appear on your permanent criminal record, which could impact your education, housing opportunities, as well as future employment. You want a strong legal defense against these charges to protect your future. Contact Arnold Law to discuss your legal options.
Keep in mind disorderly intoxication can fall into the category of disorderly conduct. If your actions take place in an area that allows for alcohol use, you could still face criminal charges for disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct. An example would be attending a sporting event that sells alcoholic beverages, and you get into an altercation, which is considered disturbing the peace of other attendees at the event. You can still be arrested for disorderly conduct even though alcohol is involved.
Under Florida Law and as stated under Chapter XLVI of State Statute 856.011, the members of the criminal jury are given instructions before they pass a verdict that the court must have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant:
- Was legally intoxicated at the time of the incident and that alcohol played a significant part in their actions
- Put another person in danger, or another’s property in danger by their actions or words
- Consumed alcohol in a public location or was found to be intoxicated in a public location
- Those filing complaints had their peace and quiet disturbed
Intoxication under a disorderly intoxication charge means the defendant has consumed enough alcohol to render them without control over their mind or body. When it refers to a ‘public place,’ this refers to a location in which any person has the right to visit.
Resources for Disorderly Conduct in Florida
Numerous statutes cover disorderly conduct under Florida State Laws. You can read these statutes or contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Arnold Law to discuss any questions you may have regarding your case.
Florida Statute, Chapter XLVI, 877.03 covers disorderly conduct charges in the State of Florida.
Florida Statute, Chapter XLVI, 856.011, will advise you on the disorderly intoxication charges under Florida laws.
Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, 775.083 covers the fines set forth by the State of Florida for misdemeanors and other charges. If you are looking for those related to disorderly conduct, you should look at those under punishments for misdemeanors of the second degree.
Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, 784.07 covers the punishment set forth in regards to verbal abuse or battery when a member of law enforcement is involved with a disorderly conduct charge.
Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, 775.082 is a list of general penalties and the steps which must be taken for registering criminals in the State of Florida. In regards to disorderly conduct convictions, you will want to look closely at the section for punishments of second-degree misdemeanors.
There are specifications set out for juries who preside over cases involving disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication. If you want to look closer at what the juror’s responsibilities are in these cases as a grounds for defending your case, look at Cases 29.1 and 29.5 for Criminal Jury. Talk to your attorney at Arnold Law about accessing this information and how it may help in your defense strategy.
Find Help Against Disorderly Conduct Near Me
It is vital to your future and your rights to have experienced legal representation against disorderly conduct charges. Call Arnold Law at 904-264-3627 if you are facing these charges as you need legal help to ensure you are treated fairly and your rights are protected. We have experience fighting these charges under Florida law and in Florida courtrooms. We understand how these charges can impact your future and criminal record and are ready to help you fight and avoid possible future repercussions.
Arnold Law can offer you a criminal defense strategy to reduce or dismiss these charges. We are ready to help you stand up for your rights and make sure you are treated fair, so you get control back in your life. Call us today, with our extensive knowledge in disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication; we offer you the best defense to these charges.