7 Things You Might Not Know about Disorderly Conduct
In these times of nationwide protests and a people on both sides of a political issue expressing anger publicly, we thought we’d take the time to let you know some things about disorderly conduct laws in Minnesota that you might not know.
How does the law define disorderly conduct? Sometimes what a layperson thinks constitutes a particular crime does not conform to how the law defines the same behavior. Each state defines misdemeanors in their criminal code. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor crime in Minnesota. The law considers misdemeanor crimes as less serious offenses than felonies. The community’s interest in punishing misdemeanors is its interest in protecting the community at large against conduct considered offensive and even dangerous by that community.
How does Minnesota define disorderly conduct? Minnesota defines several behaviors as disorderly conduct. The behavior may take place in a public or a private place — which specifically includes a school bus. The person must know or have reason to know that his behavior will alarm, anger or disturb others. The behaviors are:
- brawling or fighting;
- disturbing a lawful meeting or assembly; or
- acting in “offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.”
- Interestingly, epileptic seizures are specifically excluded from disorderly conduct.
What is the penalty for disorderly conduct in Minnesota? Minnesota law provides that a disorderly conduct charge carries a penalty of up to 90 days in jail or $1,000 fine, or both. First-time offenders often receive lower fines instead of the $1,000 maximum plus probation of one to two years.
An interesting wrinkle in Minnesota’s disorderly conduct definition is found in a specific application to caregivers. A caregiver who violates the disorderly conduct statute with speech/actions toward a vulnerable adult is subject to a gross misdemeanor –imprisonment for up to one year or fined $3,000 or both. The law defines the caregiver as either an individual or a facility responsible for the care of the vulnerable adult.
What are my defenses? Self-defense is an affirmative defense against disorderly conduct charges as is freedom of speech. If the investigators make mistakes in the investigation or if the prosecution fails to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, charges may drop.
As noted earlier, epileptic seizures are a defense as is insanity.
Should I plead guilty? You should retain an attorney experienced in these cases and discuss with your counsel whether to plead guilty. In many cases, the answer is no. The prosecution has to prove that the words you used were “fighting words”, such as racial slurs or language intended to make people upset. If your words were not fighting words and no illegal conduct (such as hitting someone or property damage) occurred, you may succeed in fighting the disorderly charge.
How common are disorderly conduct charges? Very. Prosecutors often add disorderly conduct charges to the list when they want some leverage for plea bargains of the more serious charges. Offenders often plead down to the less serious disorderly conduct charge to which the defendant then admits.
Can I get my disorderly conduct charge expunged? Expungement in Minnesota means sealing the records and prohibiting the opening or disclosure of the charges without a court order or statutory authority. The law does not permit destruction of the records or returning the records to the individual.
A revision to expungement process that took effect in January 2015 made it easier for Minnesotans convicted of low-level felonies and misdemeanors to seal records from prying employers and landlords. Former offenders who qualify may request expungement two to five years after completing their sentences. Expungement is not guaranteed.
To talk more about this, or anything else, please contact us. We are your resource for all your criminal law questions.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.