What Constitutes Louisiana Disorderly Conduct and How Can You Fight It
Sometimes it’s easy for things to get out of hand. When this happens, if you’re on the wrong side of the law, you may find yourself facing charges of disorderly conduct.
What is disorderly conduct, and how big of a deal is a disorderly conduct charge? Stick with us, and you’ll soon know all the basics!
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
Let’s start with a basic disorderly conduct definition. This crime, also called “disturbing the peace,” can mean a lot of things. Some examples include being drunk and noisy in public, fighting, or participating in a riot. The common feature that makes an act classified as disorderly conduct is that it’s likely to disturb, distress, or anger other people or disrupt “public tranquility.”
While this crime can be interpreted differently in different states, in Louisiana, the following actions can lead to a disorderly conduct arrest:
- Yelling racial slurs in public
- Disrupting a funeral, burial, or memorial service
- Participating in an unlawful assembly
- Interrupting a lawful assembly
- Blocking a public street, sidewalk, alley, or bridge
- Excessive noise (ex. playing ratio above legal limits)
- Maintaining a place of prostitution
Generally, police have some leeway when deciding whether to arrest a person for disorderly conduct since many of these actions have some room for interpretation.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct
Certain types of disorderly conduct have greater penalties. For example, picketing a funeral or inciting, participating in, or failing to disperse from a riot can result in a fine of $500, up to six months in jail, or both. “Keeping or leasing a disorderly place,” which is the legal term for maintaining a place of prostitution, carries the same penalties unless child prostitution is involved.
A person who has committed a crime during a riot that results in someone’s death can face up to 21 years in a hard labor prison. If the riot-related crime results in serious injury or substantial property damage, they’ll face up to five years of hard labor.
“Obstructing public passage” is the legal term for blocking a public street, sidewalk, etc, for example, passing out drunk on the sidewalk on Bourbon Street. It is a misdemeanor crime that can carry a penalty of a fine up to $500, six months in jail, or both.
Excessive noise coming from your car can lead you to get a fine up to $200 or a 30-day drivers’ license suspension. However, if it’s not your first offense, the fines can get more serious. In addition, excessive noise near a place of worship or a hospital can land you up to 30 days in jail.
How to Fight a Disorderly Conduct Charge
Nobody wants to face jail time or pay big penalties. If you’re wondering how to beat a disorderly conduct charge, you’ll be glad to know that there are a few defenses that may help you win your case. To prove that a person has engaged in disorderly conduct, the state must show that they’ve had an intent to cause harm or at least a reckless disregard.
First, you can deny that you committed the alleged offense. For example, if you were just horsing around with your friends and play-fighting, this might be annoying to others, but it’s not necessarily disorderly or criminal.
A second option is that you can argue that you were acting in self-defense or defense of others. The third (and usually final) option is that you could argue that what you were doing didn’t fall into a category of a prohibited act because it didn’t disturb anyone.
In some cases, defendants have tried to claim that the laws regarding disturbing the peace are simply too broad and vague. As such, they argue that these laws infringe on their constitutional rights to free speech. However, this defense is rarely successful.
Generally, the courts rule that although people are free to exercise their first amendment rights, this does not come without any restrictions.
Do You Need a Disorderly Conduct Attorney?
If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct, it’s in your best interest to hire a criminal defense attorney to represent you. You may think you can handle it yourself, particularly if the penalties aren’t that steep. However, there’s more to it than that.
First, your attorney will take care of everything for you, including:
- Appearing in court on your behalf
- Reviewing your case for technical errors and inconsistencies (this could help get the charges dropped entirely)
- Reviewing eyewitness testimony and re-interviewing witnesses if necessary
- Negotiate for reduced charges
- Prepare the defense for court (if necessary)
An arrest will go on your criminal record, which will show up when someone runs a background check on you. Many people don’t realize that arrests remain on your record even if the charges are dropped.
That means that you could end up having trouble in the future when you apply for a new job or admission to a new school. It can also negatively affect you when you’re fighting for parental rights, applying for a loan, renting a new apartment, or applying for a professional license.
A great defense attorney can help get the charges expunged from your record, so it doesn’t haunt you for the rest of your life.
Schedule a Consultation Today
Don’t gamble with your future by trying to fight a disorderly conduct charge on your own! Contact the Barkemeyer Law Firm to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case and learn how we can help. Use our convenient online form or call us any time between 7 am and 7 pm, even on the weekends.