The crime of disorderly conduct in Philadelphia can encompass a wide range of activities. It is specifically designed to deter people from causing a public scene or intentionally disrupting the public. Because of this wide range of activities, it may be in a person’s best interest to contact a Philadelphia disorderly conduct lawyer as soon as possible. Disorderly Conduct is defined in the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes under 18 Pennsylvania Criminal Code Section 5501.
Disorderly conduct can be classified as a misdemeanor or a summary offense depending upon the nature of the conduct. If the accused had the intent to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, then it will be considered a misdemeanor-3 punishable by a possible maximum of one year in prison and a $2,500 fine. Otherwise, disorderly conduct is a summary offense punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
A person can be found guilty of disorderly conduct if they intend to cause public inconvenience, create an annoyance, cause public alarm, or simply disregard the risk that such a result will occur. In doing so, the accused either engages in a fight or threatening behavior, makes unreasonable noise, uses obscene language or gestures, or engages in offensive behavior which serves “no legitimate purpose.”
According to the Pennsylvania Crimes Code, the term “public” refers to any place that the general public has access to, which includes schools, parks, businesses, and the streets. As such, if the alleged conduct occurs in the accused’s home or the home of the complainant, then disorderly conduct would not apply unless it was intended to disturb or annoy the neighbors.
Disorderly conduct is a common charge for police to use when trying to disperse a large crowd and people are not complying with police instruction. If the crowd is causing public inconvenience, such as blocking the public streets or being obnoxious to an extent that causes people around to become alarmed, they can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
In the alternative, disorderly conduct can be charged against individuals as well, not just large groups. Examples of when an individual can be charged with disorderly conduct in Philadelphia are bar fights, use of obscene or abusive language, blocking traffic, or public drunkenness which is causing a scene.
To be convicted of disorderly conduct, the alleged conduct needs to be committed with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. The police need to show that this was the accused’s intention. However, this is not an easy thing to do.
An experienced Philadelphia disorderly conduct lawyer will have to ability to raise defenses which would show that the accused was not the person involved or there was a legitimate reason for his conduct. These issues can be brought to the attention of the police and prosecutor on a person’s behalf to potentially have the charge dismissed or reduced.
In Philadelphia, the District Attorney’s Office operates a program known as Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD). This program is designed to deal with first time offenders charged with non-violent crimes such as DUI, retail theft, disorderly conduct, and other various offenses. If the accused is charged with a misdemeanor such as disorderly conduct, they may have the opportunity to complete the ARD program.
The attorney for the accused can file a petition with the DA’s Office seeking admission to the ARD program. Once admitted to the program, the accused would be required to complete community service, pay all court imposed fines, costs, and restitution, and complete a brief probationary period. Once successfully completed, the accused individual’s case will be dismissed without a verdict.
Successful completion of ARD will also allow the accused to file an expungement petition with the court to have the arrest records expunged. This is a unique opportunity aimed at preventing a minor arrest from hindering the accused’s future goals in employment, school, or other areas.
Each case is different and it is important to know how the law applies to your circumstance. Contact an experienced Philadelphia disorderly conduct lawyer to discuss your case in greater detail and feel confident about a person’s representation.