Disorderly conduct is a crime that covers a broad scope of behaviors, such as offensive language, physical altercations, excessive noise, and drug use. Also referred to as “disturbing the peace,” disorderly conduct is one of Arizona’s most common misdemeanor crimes. It is also one of the most serious types of misdemeanors, potentially resulting in a hefty fine, probation, and even jail time. In some instances, disorderly conduct in Arizona may be charged as a class six felony.
Understanding Disorderly Conduct Charges in Arizona
Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-2904 describes the crime of disorderly conduct as a person who intentionally disturbs the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, person, or family. ARS 13-2904 also lists behaviors that could result in a disorderly conduct charge which include the following:
- Engaging in fights, violent behavior, or seriously disruptive behavior
- Making unreasonable noise
- Using offensive or abusive language or gestures to a person in a manner that is likely to elicit physical retaliation
- Making a protracted commotion, display, or utterance with the intent to prevent a lawful meeting, procession, or gathering from taking place
- Refusing to obey a lawful order to disperse that is issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a hazard, fire, or another emergency
- Recklessly discharging, handling, or displaying a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon
Disorderly conduct is considered a catchall term for a wide range of criminal activities. For example, you could be charged with disorderly conduct in Arizona if you violate a noise ordinance, such as playing excessively loud music between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am in Phoenix.
Getting into a fight with someone, being unnecessarily loud in a public space while intoxicated, pulling a fire alarm when there is not an emergency, and refusing to leave the scene of an accident after being directed by an official are other common examples of disorderly conduct in Arizona.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Arizona
The penalty for a disorderly conduct charge in Arizona can range based on the circumstances surrounding the case. Under ARS 13-2904, disorderly conduct that involves the use of a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon is a class 6 felony.
A class six felony in Arizona is the least severe type of felony and can result in up to $150,000 in fines, probation, and/or a jail sentence of between four months and 5.75
years. However, prison time for disorderly conduct is also dependent on past felony convictions. Penalties could include:
- Between 4 months and 2 years in prison if you have no prior felony convictions
- Between 9 months and 2.75 years in prison if you have one prior felony conviction
- Between 2.25 and 5.75 years if you have two or more prior felony convictions.
All other types of disorderly conduct in Arizona are class 1 misdemeanors. If charged with a class 1 misdemeanor, you could face a penalty of up to six months in jail and a maximum of $2,500 in fines. The judge may also require you to pay additional fees and possible restitution to any victims involved in the crime.
Legal Defenses to Disorderly Conduct in Arizona
Cases involving disorderly conduct can often be complex as defenses typically focus on the unavailability of evidence. The prosecution may also have difficulty finding reliable witnesses to testify against the accused, especially if the case is pursued after a lengthy amount of time.
In addition to lack of evidence, a criminal defense attorney may also recommend other legal defenses, such as the following:
1. Reasonable Doubt
A criminal defense attorney may recommend a legal defense of reasonable doubt if the prosecution has inadequate evidence to prove their case. Finding witnesses who will testify on the defendant’s behalf to discredit any evidence brought forward by the prosecution is ideal. Without concrete proof that a crime was committed, the court could dismiss the charges.
2. Freedom of Speech
Freedom of speech is another defense that may apply to disorderly conduct cases due to the First Amendment. However, this defense is only viable if it can be proven that the alleged crime should not have caused a reasonable person to react in a violent way. For example, freedom of speech may be a suitable defense in a case where the defendant disrupted a meeting, gathering, or procession.
3. No Criminal Intention
In certain scenarios, the prosecution may need to prove that the accused had criminal intentions. In this situation, the defendant could possibly convince the judge or jury that they did not have the intention to commit a crime and that disorderly conduct was committed accidentally.
Under ARS 13-404, a person can justifiably threaten another person or use physical force against someone else to protect their self or a loved one from imminent danger. In addition, the law states that the threat or physical force used must be proportional to the extent or degree of the imminent harm. In certain cases, a defendant could plead self-defense if they have evidence that proves that they or a loved one was in imminent danger when they committed the crime of disorderly conduct.
5. No Criminal Act
In some cases, a criminal defense attorney may recommend a defense of no criminal act, meaning that no crime was actually committed. Due to the broad and ambiguous nature of ARS 13-2904, an attorney could explain to the court that the disorderly conduct displayed was not severe enough to be considered a crime. For example, if the charge focuses on the use of offensive language, an attorney could argue that the words used were rude but did not threaten or provoke another person.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Arizona
Disorderly conduct is considered a serious crime in Arizona and should be handled by a qualified criminal defense attorney. If you have been arrested or charged with disorderly conduct in Arizona, you need an experienced attorney on your side.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 467-4370 to discuss your case today.