Disorderly conduct is a common underage or student criminal charge and covers several inappropriate and offensive behaviors. You might be charged if you aggressively threaten someone in a public place, or if you fire a weapon in your neighborhood. However, many people are arrested for seemingly harmless actions, such gesturing to another person in a lewd way, looking through a neighbor’s window, or walking into an occupied restroom.
If you are accused of disorderly conduct, it may feel as if you are being treated unfairly. You may also be worried about having a misdemeanor on your record. A Houston criminal defense lawyer with The Law Offices of Ned Barnett understands how to present your side of the story in a positive way. With attorney Ned Barnett’s help, it may be possible to prove that your actions did not constitute a crime.
To find out how you can avoid a serious disorderly conduct conviction, call (713) 222-6767 for a free and confidential consultation.
What is Considered Disorderly Conduct
Disorderly conduct is what is known as a “catch-all” charge in the state of Texas. Most of these cases originate when someone makes a call about offensive behavior, or when a person causes a disruption in a public place. It can be broadly defined as engaging in any activity that disturbs the peace.
According to Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, the following can lead to disorderly conduct charges:
- Causing a disruption through vulgar language or any phrase or statement that leads to people being offended in a public place.
- Creating an odor that disrupts the peace. This could be caused by a marijuana cigarette, fumes from spray paint, or any other chemical that is noticeable or hazardous.
- Gesturing to someone in an offensive manner. If you decide to flip someone off in a very obvious and offensive way that causes a breach of the peace, it could be reported to police.
- Excessive noise making in a public place. This excludes certain businesses and locations, such as shooting ranges and sports stadiums.
- Engaging in a physical altercation or subjecting another individual to verbal abuse in public.
- Firing a gun in a public place.
- Exposing genitalia in an obvious manner.
- Looking into a person’s home while trespassing, or looking into someone else’s hotel room.
There are certain situations in which these rules do not apply. For example, those under the age of 12 cannot be punished for things like making obscene gestures or using foul language, so long as the act occurs at a school during school hours. Aircraft that cause unreasonable noise are also exempt from this charge, but only if they are complying with Section 100 of the Civil Practice and Remedy Code.
Disorderly Conduct as a Reduced Charge
In many cases, lawyers may fight to have more serious offenses reduced to disorderly conduct. This is largely due to that fact this charge is only a misdemeanor, may not carry jail time, and many of the other penalties that would arise from a felony conviction. If you are charged with drug possession, for example, an effective legal defense may lead to the crime being reduced to disorderly conduct. With many drug charges resulting in fines, license suspension, and years in prison, this can be a significant improvement.
When criminal charges are reduced, it often happens as part of a plea agreement. In exchange for a lesser charge and greatly reduced penalties, you must agree to plead guilty. These deals can also be made in high profile cases where police are desperate for additional information.
Consequences of a Conviction
Most acts of disorderly conduct are classified as Class C misdemeanors. This is the least serious type of criminal offense in the state of Texas. However, if you discharge a firearm in public or display a firearm with the intention of causing unrest, you may be convicted of a Class B misdemeanor.
Penalties that are often assigned for disorderly conduct include, but are not limited to:
- Disorderly Conduct (Class C Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $500
- Disorderly Conduct (Class B Misdemeanor): A fine of up to $2,000 and up to 180 days behind bars
Many people believe that being convicted of a relatively minor crime will not affect their chances for employment. However, a disorderly conduct conviction will stay on your criminal record, which means that it can show up on a background check. Many potential employers see a criminal conviction as a red flag and may stop communicating with you once they learn about your past. A criminal record may also make it difficult to continue your education. The University of Texas, for example, has very strict rules governing student conduct. Those who break any state or federal laws may be suspended or expelled.
Mounting a Successful Defense
There are many ways to get your disorderly conduct charges dismissed. Under Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, self-defense or protection from an animal attack can be used as a defense if you are being accused of discharging or displaying a weapon. If you were arrested for vulgar language or offensive gestures, it may be argued that you had no intention of causing harm. You may be able to claim that you yelled on accident, or that your actions were not directed at anyone in particular.
How Houston Disorderly Conduct Lawyer Ned Barnett Can Help
Houston criminal defense attorney Ned Barnett has over three decades of experience in the courtroom and he has helped countless people prove their innocence. With his help, you can fight to achieve the best possible outcome, regardless of the charges made against you.
If you have any questions regarding your case, call (713) 222-6767 for a free consultation.