What You Need to Know About Disorderly Conduct Charges in Philadelphia
Perhaps you got too rowdy at a sporting event, participated in a rally, had too much to drink and walked home from the bar, or maybe you were even standing up in defense of someone. Now you have been charged with disorderly conduct and you are not sure what your next steps should be. It is imperative that you understand the charges against you and what your legal options are.
Disorderly conduct charges in Philadelphia are often added to other charges such as domestic abuse or public intoxication. They can also be used very broadly for other behaviors. These charges may not be as serious as other criminal charges you could face, but they can still impact your life for years to come and are costly. To increase your chances of having your charges dismissed or reduced, you need a knowledgeable, top Philadelphia criminal defense attorney on your side.
Defining Disorderly Conduct in Philadelphia
Under Pennsylvania Code § 5503(a)(4), disorderly conduct in Philadelphia is a third-degree misdemeanor charge if the intent is to cause harm or severe inconvenience. If the conduct was not severe or the individual stopped their behavior when warned, it is a summary offense. This law describes disorderly conduct as behavior intended to cause public inconvenience or to create a risk, such as:
- Fighting, threatening, or violent behavior
- Making unreasonable noise
- Using obscene language or obscene gestures
- Creating a hazard or a physically offensive condition
- Public drunkenness
Philadelphia’s municipal code has a similar definition that also defines public places as a “city sidewalk, park, plaza, recreation center, or any premises open to the general public, such as a theater, stadium, concert hall, or place of business.”
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct
Disorderly conduct as a summary offense can include up to 90 days in jail with a fine of up to $300. If the offense was minor, the individual facing charges would likely get a citation or small fine. However, if the prosecutor can prove that the individual intended to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience to the public, such as with public drunkenness, they will be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor and may be sentenced to serve up to one year in a Philadelphia county jail and up to a $2,500 fine.
Keep in mind that these charges and your arrest record can be visible to the public and future employers. No matter what type of disorderly conduct charges in Philadelphia you are facing, it is not worth the risk of trying to fight these charges without the help of an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer.
If you choose to fight Disorderly Conduct charges at a summary trial and are found guilty, the consequences you face for the disorderly conduct conviction are mainly at the judge’s discretion. Other facts of surrounding the crime, such as being a first-time offender or even the location where the conduct occurred, can have a significant impact on the outcome of your case. When you work with a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney like Lauren Wimmer, your attorney can present these facts accurately to the court, which may help reduce the impact of the charges.
First Time Offender Program
The Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) is run by the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office to help first-time offenders. Those charged with misdemeanor crimes like disorderly conduct, DUI, retail theft, and many other first-time offenses are eligible. If you are interested in this program, speak to a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney to determine whether it is worth applying or fighting your case. If you both agree that ARD would be beneficial for you, your attorney can file a petition to the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office or the office in the county where you are charged asking for your admission into the program.
In this program, offenders are required to:
- Complete community service
- Pay all court-imposed fines, costs, and restitution
- Complete a brief probationary period
Upon successful completion of the ARD program, your case will be dismissed. You could then file a petition for expungement to have your arrest records expunged. Expunging your records can keep your minor arrest from impacting your employment or educational goals.
Possible Defenses for Disorderly Conduct Charges
If you are not interested in the ARD program or are ineligible, several defenses can be used in your case. Although a disorderly conduct charge may seem minor or easily refutable, the broad definition of the law can cause these charges to be interpreted differently in each case. It is crucial to your case that you hire a skilled Philadelphia criminal defense attorney to begin building your defense.
When you choose an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia, you are choosing someone who is familiar with the Philadelphia court system and who knows what types of defenses could work in your case. Common defenses for disorderly conduct in Philadelphia are:
- Lack of intent: The prosecutor must show that conducted yourself in the manner that you did with the aim of causing inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm.
- Self defense or defense of others: Your Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer can assert that your conduct was self-defense or in defense of another person.
- Freedom of speech: It is not illegal to make statements that people find disagreeable or offensive. Your comments must be intended to be disruptive to be convicted of disorderly conduct.
- Your behavior was not severe or substantial: To be charged with a third-degree misdemeanor, your conduct must meet these definitions.
- The incident didn’t happen in public: Under both Pennsylvania and Philadelphia laws, disorderly conduct must be disturbing to the public. If the police are called to your home to respond to a domestic concern, you may face other charges, but disorderly conduct should not be one of them since it did not happen in public.
Call Today to Schedule a Free Case Evaluation with a Criminal Defense Attorney in Philadelphia
The outcome of your case is highly dependent upon the legal representation you receive. You want an aggressive and knowledgeable Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer on your side who understands the necessary steps to bring your case to the most favorable resolution possible. You need a lawyer who is willing to take a strong stance and make the prosecutor prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Lauren Wimmer is a criminal defense lawyer based in Philadelphia. Our office handles Disorderly Conduct charges in Philadelphia County, Montgomery County, Delaware County, Bucks County and in various New Jersey municipal courts.
Ready to schedule your free legal consultation? Call Wimmer Criminal Defense Law today at 215-712-1212 or use our convenient online contact form.