Disorderly conduct charges are very common. On an average day of running errands in Johnson County, you will probably see at least one-person act in a way that could get them charged with disorderly conduct. The difference between receiving a charge for disorderly conduct and not receiving one is often whether the police are called and the temperament of the officer arriving at the scene. Law enforcement officers often use disorderly conduct as a “catch all.” If an officer doesn’t like your behavior but you have not committed another crime you may find yourself cited with disorderly conduct.
What Is Disorderly Conduct? There are a couple of different definitions of disorderly conduct. Depending on the jurisdiction in which you are charged the law varies slightly. Here are a two common examples of laws prohibiting disorderly conduct:
State Of Kansas:(a) Disorderly conduct is one or more of the following acts that the person knows or should know will alarm, anger or disrupt others or provoke an assault or other breach of the peace:
Brawling or fighting
disturbing an assembly, meeting or procession, not unlawful in its character; or
using fighting words or engaging in noisy conduct tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others.
(b) Disorderly COnduct is a class C misdemeanor.
(c) As used in this section, “fighting words” means words that by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite the listener to an immediate beach of the peace.
Overland Park Municipal Code: Disorderly conduct is, with knowledge or probable cause to believe that such acts will alarm, anger, or tend to provoke an assault or other breach of peace:
Engaging in brawling or fighting; or
Disturbing an assembly, meeting, or procession, not unlawful in its character; or
Using offensive, obscene, or abusive language or engaging in noisy conduct tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others.
Disorderly conduct is a Class C violation
If you want a real world example of Disorderly Conduct look at the case excerpt below for a disorderly conduct fact pattern.
State v. Cleveland, 469 P.2d 251 (Kan. 1970).
This case explored the question of how Kansas courts defined disorderly conduct. In exploring this issue, the court held that disorderly conduct was a disturbance of calmness or order and could be created by any act which harassed individuals in the enjoyment of peace and quiet or excited uneasiness or fear. Id. at 253.
In this case, the defendant approached the victim, a corporal in the Marine Corps recruiting officers for the Marines, at the Student Union Building of Kansas State University. Id. at 252. At the time of the incident, the victim was seated at a table when the defendant engaged the victim in conversation by asking him questions and then interrupting his answers. Id. In the course of the conversation, the defendant called the victim a killer, a mercenary, and a prostitute. Id. Eventually, the defendant’s language toward the victim became so disgusting and shocking that the court could not even write on it in their opinion of the case. Id. Suffice to say, the defendant’s language was directed toward the victim’s mother, the Marines, the flag, and the President of the United States. Id. Ultimately, the interaction drew many students to the area. Id. According to one student, the defendant was screaming directly into the victim’s face and the victim was responding in a soft voice. Id. at 253. Additionally, many of the students in the area were offended. Id. In the end, the defendant was charged and convicted of disturbance of peace (AKA disorderly conduct). Id. at 252. As a result of the conviction, the defendant appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Kansas. Id.
On appeal, the defendant argued that his dialogue with the Marine recruiter did not constitute the offense of disorderly conduct. Id. at 253. In addressing this argument, the court first identified that “disturbance of peace” or “disorderly conduct” was a disturbance of calmness or order and could be created by any act which harassed individuals in the enjoyment of peace and quiet or excited uneasiness or fear. Id. Additionally, the court noted that the public peace to be protected was that invisible sense of security and calmness so necessary to one’s comfort and which every person felt to be under the protection of the law and for which all governments were created. Id. Moreover, the court mentioned that it was not necessary that actual personal violence be employed to be considered disorderly conduct. Id. at 254. Rather, the court found that abusive and insulting language by one towards another, accompanied by threats of violence against such other which put him or her in fear, constituted the offense of disorderly conduct. Id.
With regard to this case, the court concluded that the lewd and indecent language the defendant aimed at the victim (all in a loud voice) disturbed the feeling of security and calmness of the students in the lobby. Id. Therefore, the defendant was guilty of disorderly conduct. Id.