Like many states, Florida’s disorderly conduct law prohibits people from being drunk – or otherwise incapacitated – disturbing the peace, or making a nuisance of themselves in public. In some cases, those who loiter could be charged with disorderly conduct. Some view this offense as an “umbrella law,” which gives the police probable cause to arrest someone until they can charge suspects with more salient crimes — or for other reasons known only to the officer. If you’re facing disorderly conduct charges in St. Petersburg, contact Goldman Wetzel at 727-828-3900 to review your legal options.
You could be charged with disorderly conduct if you make unreasonable or offensive noise or engage in threatening or violent behavior (fighting or brawling in a public place). In Florida, inciting or participating in disorderly conduct with two or more people can be considered participating in a riot [Fl. Stat. § 877.01 & 870.03]. Disorderly conduct is charged as a second-degree misdemeanor, which could draw a fine of up to $500 or up to 60 days in jail [Fl. Stat. §§ 775.082 & .083], while any rioting offense is a third-degree felony that brings a fine of up to $5,000 and up to five years in prison [Fla. Stat. §§ 775.081,.082,.083].
Is Disorderly Conduct an Objective Charge?
Many believe it is not. They argue that being obnoxious in public isn’t technically a violation of the law, per se. Often enough, those who are charged with disorderly conduct are just “blowing off a little steam” in front of the wrong person – usually a police officer. If an officer believes the offender is intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, a public intoxication charge will probably be filed even though law enforcement does not test the suspect for drugs or alcohol. The broad scope of disorderly conduct also makes it subject to law enforcement abuse. The attorneys at Goldman Wetzel can refute the charge with effective defense strategies, especially if it is the only allegation the defendant faces.
Civil rights defenses, improper arrest, and the absence of nothing more than your bad judgment can be argued effectively in court or used to plea the charges down with prosecutors. The advantages of plea negotiations include:
- Less danger to your job or education that a criminal record might pose
- Avoidance of jail time
- More time to pay any fines or court costs if you are found guilty or given probation
Many times, Goldman Wetzel can use plea negotiations to get disorderly conduct charges dismissed or significantly reduced, depending on the strength of the case and whether or not the evidence strongly supports the charges. The courts require a rather high standard of proof in showing that the actions were outrageous or clearly corrupted the public. A successful defense enables you to avoid the long-term consequences we’ve previously outlined.
Goldman Wetzel can also fight to convince a judge to place disorderly conduct (or disorderly intoxication [Fl. Stat. § 856.011]) charges on hold if the defendant participates in the county’s Pre-Trial Intervention (Diversion) Program. Those accepted into the program and who successfully complete it could be excused from appearing in court and eventually have the charges dismissed. If, however, the suspect has previous disorderly conduct or intoxication charges against him or her, then the odds of being admitted to the program could be significantly lower than a first-time offender.
The facts and circumstances surrounding your disorderly conduct charges are unique. As criminal attorneys, we understand the circumstances that may have initiated arrest and how many of them are open to broad interpretation. All these factors determine the defense strategies that could have the best chances of producing a favorable outcome of your case. Call for a free consultation at 727-828-3900, or submit a simple online contact form.