Protesting and Philadelphia Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Mischief Charges
Recent events across the country have brought a number of national issues to a boiling point. As a result, many Philadelphians joined with protesters in cities of nearly every state to express the need for immediate change. Some of these protesters were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct or criminal mischief. While such charges might seem small in comparison to more serious charges, any type of criminal record can have a far-reaching impact on almost every area of your life. If you were protesting or exercising your rights to peacefully assemble under the Constitution and ended up receiving charges for either disorderly conduct or criminal mischief, you need the trustworthy representation of a knowledgeable Philadelphia criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Is Considered Disorderly Conduct?
In Pennsylvania, most disorderly conduct charges are either a summary offense or the most minor criminal offense in the state. This charge covers a wide range of actions and not just one specific type of behavior. For example, actions that are classified as unruly constitute disorderly conduct. Under Pennsylvania law, intentionally or recklessly initiating a risk of public alarm, annoyance, or inconvenience is considered disorderly conduct. Examples of disorderly conduct include but are not limited to:
- Disobeying noise ordinances
- Participating in fights or other violent behavior
- Disturbing the peace
- Public intoxication
- Using offensive language or gestures
- Creating a physically dangerous situation that serves no valid purpose
Those convicted of disorderly conduct could spend up to 90 days in jail and be required to pay a fine of up to $300. If the defendant has no prior criminal record, they might only receive a citation or a small fine, or be subject to community service or an anger management class.
To convict someone of a misdemeanor charge in the third degree, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant intended to cause significant harm or a substantial inconvenience. If found guilty, they could face a maximum of 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $2,500, or both. Misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges typically involve intoxication, substantial injuries to another individual, or considerable property damage.
Protests and Charges of Disorderly Conduct
If you were protesting and charged with disorderly conduct, your Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer will take into consideration the circumstances surrounding your arrest. A peaceful protest in a public place or on private property with the owner’s permission that does not include violence or blocking streets, sidewalks, or access to homes or buildings is legal. However, if a police officer orders you to disperse, you must do so. If they deem a group of people protesting to be disorderly, law enforcement officers can direct them to leave if it seems likely that the group’s behavior could result in a disorderly conduct charge under the law. Refusing to disperse when a law enforcement officer instructs you to do so could result in an arrest and charges.
When you hire a skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorney, they will work to make sure that the police officers were legally justified in directing you to leave or in arresting you. If not, this can be used for your defense.
What Is Criminal Mischief?
Criminal mischief charges also apply to a wide range of behaviors. Simply put, criminal mischief is purposely or recklessly destroying, damaging, or tampering with property you do not own. These charges are unique because they can be graded as low as a summary offense and has high as a third-degree felony. To be convicted of a third-degree felony for criminal mischief, an individual must have done at least one of the following:
- Caused damages of over $5,000
- Caused a major interruption or impairment to public transportation or communication
- Disrupted supplies of water, gas, power, or other public utilities
Typical penalties for conviction of criminal mischief as a third-degree felony including up to 7 years in prison and as much as $15,000 in fines.
Criminal Mischief Charges and Protests
You have many rights under the law when it comes to protesting and gathering peacefully to voice opinions and ideas. However, you do not have the right to hurt others or destroy property. If you were charged with criminal mischief in relation to protesting, it’s time to call a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney for help. Perhaps you were protesting and not involved in anything that constitutes criminal mischief but got charged anyway. Depending on the specifics of your circumstances, your attorney might be able to get your charges dismissed altogether or work out a plea bargain for you.
Your Trustworthy Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been arrested and charged with any level of crime due to your involvement in protests, you need an aggressive Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer who understands the charges and knows how the law applies in your case. You also need an attorney who is very familiar with valid and effective defenses and how to use them.
At Wimmer Criminal Defense Law, we help individuals charged with various crimes fight their charges. We work tirelessly to ensure you receive the best possible outcome in your situation. Our firm has a reputation for doing everything possible to make our clients know their trust in us was not misplaced. With our undivided attention and experience fighting criminal charges at every stage of a criminal case, we are ready to represent you.
Facing down a criminal mischief charge can a frightening prospect, especially if it is considered a third-degree felony, but you don’t have to face it alone. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today at 215-712-1212 or use our confidential online contact form to schedule your free criminal defense case consultation with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney. Someone is available to speak to you 24 hours a day. Now is the time to act. The longer you wait, the more serious your situation could become.