Philadelphia Disorderly Conduct Charges
Fight Back Against Disorderly Conduct Charges
The Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers of Goldstein Mehta LLC fight for clients who are facing misdemeanor charges like disorderly conduct in the Philadelphia Municipal Court and surrounding counties. We have successfully defended thousands of clients in the Municipal Court. If you are facing criminal charges, call 267-225-2545 for a free consultation with one of our criminal lawyers.
Under Pennsylvania law, disorderly conduct is either a summary offense or a misdemeanor of the third degree. Disorderly conduct does not simply involve making a scene or making noise. Instead, the disorderly conduct statute has very specific elements which the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
First, disorderly conduct requires that the Commonwealth prove a criminal mens rea or mental state beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commonwealth must prove that the defendant acted with the "intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm" or that the defendant recklessly created a risk thereof. Recklessness requires that the defendant consciously disregard a substantial known risk. In addition to proving the mens rea, the Commonwealth must also show certain conduct. For example, the Commonwealth must show either that the defendant:
- engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
- makes unreasonable noise;
- uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture;
- creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.
Gradation of Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct becomes a misdemeanor of the third degree if the Commonwealth can prove that the defendant's intent was to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience or if the defendant persists in the conduct after being warned to stop. Otherwise, disorderly conduct is a summary offense.
In Pennsylvania, summary offenses may be expunged after five years if the defendant meets certain conditions. Misdemeanors, however, cannot be fully expunged. Instead, a new law permits the defendant's record for certain misdemeanors like disorderly conduct to be sealed after ten years, which limits the public's access to the record. However, a conviction for disorderly conduct is still a criminal conviction which could have substantial collateral consequences.
Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges
There are often defenses to disorderly conduct. Potential defenses to disorderly conduct charges include:
Credibility. In many cases, it may be possible to challenge the credibility of the police witnesses who have arrested and decided to charge the defendant with disorderly conduct.
- Sufficiency of the evidence. Disorderly conduct is not simply making a scene, being loud, or giving a police officer a hard time. instead, it requires the Commonwealth to prove very specific statutory elements beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, if the Commonwealth cannot show that there was serious inconvenience to the public, then the Commonwealth would not be able to obtain a misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction.
- The First Amendment. Disorderly conduct frequently raises First Amendment issues because the statute may infringe on the defendant's right to free speech and assembly. It is not uncommon for the police to charge protestors with disorderly conduct when protestors are exercising legitimate First Amendment rights, and therefore, the First Amendment could be a defense to disorderly conduct charges.
Each case is different, and our criminal defense lawyers will carefully evaluate and investigate the allegations against you and determine the best option or defense for you.
Our Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help With Disorderly Conduct Charges
If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct or any other misdemeanor charge in the Municipal Court of Philadelphia or any of the surrounding counties, call 267-225-2545 today for a free 15-minute criminal defense strategy session. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers are typically available for same-day phone consultations and in-person meetings so that we can begin investigating your case, obtaining exculpatory evidence, and planning your defense. We have represented thousands of clients in the Philadelphia Municipal Court in misdemeanor trials and motions, and we have an outstanding record of success. If you or a loved one are facing criminal charges, we will fight for you. We will not simply accept the Commonwealth's accusations against you or encourage a plea deal simply to save time or money.
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The Disorderly Conduct Statute
§ 5503. Disorderly conduct.
(a) Offense defined.--A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
(2) makes unreasonable noise;
(3) uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
(4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.
(b) Grading.--An offense under this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a summary offense.
(c) Definition.--As used in this section the word "public" means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access; among the places included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, any neighborhood, or any premises which are open to the public.