St. Petersburg / Clearwater Disorderly Conduct Defense Lawyers
Disorderly Conduct or disorderly intoxication can be a common “catch-all” charge used by police officers to demonstrate authority and gain control over an unruly situation. Although a Disorderly Conduct charge might sound insignificant, it is nevertheless a criminal offense that carries penalties of up to a $500.00 fine and up to 60 days incarceration in the Pinellas County Jail (i.e., a second degree misdemeanor). Being convicted of this offense carries the same stigma as a conviction for any criminal offense. In other words, an applicant for employment or occupational licensure would be required to answer affirmatively to the question as to whether they had ever been convicted of a criminal offense.
In order to be found guilty of Disorderly Conduct (sometimes referred to as “Disturbing the Peace”) under Florida Statute 877.03 the prosecutor has the burden to show that your actions fall into one of the following categories:
- Your conduct was of such a nature to corrupt the public morals or outrage the sense of public decency;
- You affected the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them;
- You participated in brawling or fighting; or
- Your conduct constituted a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct.
Common Examples of Disorderly Conduct
- Inciting a Riot
- Disturbing the Peace / Breach of Peace
- Loitering in Certain Areas
- Fighting or Physical Altercations
- Obstructing Traffic
- Use of Extremely Obscene or Abusive Language
- Loud or Unreasonable Noise
Avoiding Prosecution – Our Pre-Filing Strategy
The facts and circumstances of your case may suggest that a charge for disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication was an inappropriate decision on the part of the police officer. Just because you have been arrested it does not mean that the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office has to file formal charges against you. We may be able to intervene and argue your side of the story to the prosecutor. This strategy can sometimes be successful persuading the State to decline to pursue formal charges.
Possible Defenses to an Alleged Violation of Florida’s Disorderly Conduct Law
Your Conduct Did Not Rise to a Level that Outraged or Corrupted the Public Morals
Although Florida’s Disorderly Conduct statute is stated very broadly, Florida Courts have taken a more narrow interpretation of conduct they feel violates the Disorderly Conduct law. The courts have typically required a showing that your actions outraged or corrupted the public. There has to be a direct effect on the public. Consequently, your Disorderly Conduct charge is highly dependent on the individual facts and circumstances of your case. We may be able to successfully argue against a charge of Disorderly Conduct given the nature, time and location of both your actions and the reactions of the public.
Your Disorderly Conduct Charge Resulted from Protected Free Speech
Words alone are rarely enough to support a Disorderly Conduct charge. However, there are certain words which by their very utterance can inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace.State v. Saunders, 339 So.2d 641 (Fla. 1976). This means that the only words that can create a legitimate disorderly conduct charge are those that would entice a reasonable person to fight or words that would persuade a group of people to act in a manner that breaches the peace. For example, a false report that there is clear and present danger. Nevertheless, the meaning of words is open to a wide range of interpretation. Consequently, we may be able to successfully defeat a Disorderly Conduct charge by arguing that your statements were protected by your First Amendment Guarantee to free speech.
Diversion Programs – Getting Your Disorderly Conduct Charge Dismissed
The charge of disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication may be a good candidate for entry in to the Pinellas County State Attorney’s Office Pre-Trial Intervention (Diversion) Program. If you are accepted into this program it may also mean that you are excused from attending court appearances at the Pinellas County Criminal Justice Center. A successful completion of the program will result in a dismissal of the charge. Click here to learn more about the advantages of participating in a diversion program.
Plea Negotiations – Avoiding a Conviction for Disorderly Conduct
In some circumstances it may be necessary to negotiate a plea bargain with the Prosecutor and Judge. We may be effective in demonstrating mitigating circumstances designed to convince the prosecutor and judge that a withholding of adjudication satisfies the best interests of justice. Click here to learn more about the benefits of a withholding of adjudication.
A Plea negotiation can often be structured to:
- Minimize the risks associated with employment or education;
- Avoid incarceration;
- Extend the time to pay court ordered costs;
- Avoid formal convictions.
We Can Help with Your Disorderly Conduct / Disorderly Intoxication Charge
The facts and circumstances associated with your arrest for Disorderly Conduct are unique. We are former State Prosecutors who know street-level law enforcement tactics from the inside. Consequently, we are well aware of the variety of circumstances that may have led to your arrest. As experienced St. Petersburg / Clearwater attorneys we also know the potential arguments that may be useful in your disorderly conduct case.