The Catch All Crime
Disorderly Conduct charges in Arizona can be very serious charges and it can be charged in a number of ways. In fact, disorderly conduct can be charged for so many different actions that it is often referred to as a catch all charge. If law enforcement comes across conduct they believe is illegal (or believe it should be illegal) they can almost always find a way to make it fit into the misdemeanor disorderly conduct statute. I know this seems crazy, but let’s take a look at the Arizona statute that outlines how disorderly conduct can be charged, ARS 13-2904.
Exactly what conduct constitutes disorderly conduct?
To be clear, disorderly conduct can be charged under two levels of seriousness, (1) as a class one misdemeanor and (2) as a class six felony. Let’s look at the ways that disorderly conduct charges can occur as a misdemeanor.
Arizona law says that a person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so, such person:
- Engages in fighting, violent or seriously disruptive behavior.
- Makes unreasonable noise.
- Uses abusive or offensive language or gestures to any person present in a manner likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation by such person.
- Makes any protracted commotion, utterance or display with the intent to prevent the transaction of the business of a lawful meeting, gathering or procession.
- Refuses to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, a hazard or any other emergency.
Can disorderly conduct be charged for an accident?
The answer should be no, but can be yes. As is usually the lawyer answer–it depends. Let’s unpack some of the language here so we can try to better understand exactly what acts constitute disorderly conduct (if we can at all). The language before the list must occur in conjunction with one of the items on the list for the elements of disorderly conduct charges to be satisfied. Without ALL of the elements being satisfied, no crime exists.
So before we move to the list, first a person must disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, person or family. Also, there must be intent or knowledge that the disruption will occur. While the terms knowingly and intentionally may seem like the same thing, they are not under the law. These two terms have very specific legal definitions in ARS 13-105.
- “Intentionally” or “with the intent to” means, with respect to a result or to conduct described by a statute defining an offense, that a person’s objective is to cause that result or to engage in that conduct.
- “Knowingly” means, with respect to conduct or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense, that a person is aware or believes that the person’s conduct is of that nature or that the circumstance exists. It does not require any knowledge of the unlawfulness of the act or omission.’
Knowing these terms is critical because they are vital elements of the crime and as mentioned before, if even one element is not there–no crime exists.
How can I defend against misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges?
Facing any criminal charges can be a scary and stressful situation. That said, it is important to understand the charges against you to ensure that all of the elements of any given charge are indeed satisfied and that no defenses apply to your case. Some defenses that may apply to misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges include the that the required mental state did not exist, the person whose peace was disturbed was a law enforcement officer, or that the alleged conduct that occurred does not fit into the given elements.
These can be tough to navigate given how broad the statutes are. For example, making unreasonable noise is some of the prohibited conduct in the statute above. But, what kind of noise is unreasonable? To who? How loud is unreasonable noise? Does it matter if it is a symphony or a rock band?
As another example, engaging is “seriously disruptive behavior” is another form of prohibited conduct. Again, what type of conduct is seriously disruptive? To who? While I’m sure that we can think of some conduct that would surely fall into the seriously disruptive category—I’d argue that most of it is in the grey area.
Should I hire an attorney to handle my disorderly conduct case?
The answer is yes. Anyone facing criminal charges should consult with a criminal defense attorney to discuss their case. I am a passionate Arizona criminal defense attorney who will sit down with you for no charge and go through your case to discuss the best next steps and possible strategies. I can be reached via text or call at (480) 363-0090 24/7 or you can send me a message and documents on our contact me page.