Disorderly conduct is sometimes referred to as “disturbing the peace.” However, what exactly constitutes disorderly conduct under Arizona law is ambiguous, because the law does not define this crime explicitly. Although this is one of the most commonly-charged misdemeanors, it is also one of the most serious, with penalties ranging from large fines, probation, and even jail sentences.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Arizona law classifies the following behaviors to be disorderly conduct.
- Fighting and other violent or disruptive behavior
- Unreasonable noise
- Offensive language or gestures intended to provoke retaliation
- Any commotion or display intended to disrupt a lawful meeting or procession
- Refusing to disperse for public safety during a fire, hazard, or emergency
- Handling or discharging a weapon recklessly
All of the above are misdemeanors, with the exception of the reckless use of a weapon, which is considered a felony.
Blurring the Lines
As you can see, the legal definition of disorderly conduct is open to interpretation. How loud or obnoxious must a noise be to be unreasonable? At one point does a public display become disruptive? When does exercising freedom of speech become disruptive or disorderly? It is also common for accusations of disorderly conduct to overlap with allegations of domestic violence or simple assault.
Often, all it takes to be accused of disorderly conduct is for someone to complain about your behavior. Police officers may cite you for disorderly conduct if they cannot determine any other charges. Charges of disorderly conduct may arise from behaviors you may consider to be relatively harmless, such as loud arguments; pounding on doors; using profane language; public intoxication; and even yelling in public, even at sports events or at other times you might otherwise consider acceptable.
Contact an Attorney
In order for you to be convicted of disorderly conduct, the prosecution must prove that you either intentionally or knowingly disrupted the peace or quiet or a neighborhood, family, or person. Because the law is so ambiguous, and the evidence in these matters can sometimes be subjective or circumstantial, representation by a skilled criminal attorney may in some cases mean the difference between conviction and acquittal. Our experienced attorneys will ensure you receive the representation that you need. Contact us today to set up a consultation with a member of our experienced legal team.