Disorderly conduct is a general crime that applies to many different types of conduct. While there are specific subsections of Utah’s disorderly conduct statute that apply to more limited situations, there are also general sections that apply very broadly. However, not all “disorderly” conduct should be illegal.
Many times, disorderly conduct charges are used when another offense seems too harsh. However, if the conduct is mild enough, it may be more appropriate for charges to be dismissed. If you or your child was charged with disorderly conduct in the Salt Lake City area, you may need an attorney to help you fight against your charges. For help with your disorderly conduct charges, consider taking your case to Utah criminal defense attorney Darwin Overson of Overson and Sheen. For a free consultation on your charges, call (801) 895-3143 today.
What Conduct is “Disorderly” in Utah?
The crime of disorderly conduct applies to a wide range of conduct. Many times, this crime is charged alongside other, more serious crimes. Many times, the crime may be charged as a bargaining tool, so that the other, more serious charges could be dropped in exchange for a plea to disorderly conduct. Because of the complex use of this statute, you should talk to an attorney any time you are charged with disorderly conduct.
As written in Utah Code § 76-9-102, there are five main areas of conduct the statute prohibits:
- Disobeying police orders to leave a public place,
- Creating a “hazardous or physically offensive condition,”
- Making unreasonable noise
- Obstructing traffic
Disorderly conduct for “refus[ing] to comply with the lawful order of a law enforcement officer to move from a public place” is illegal under § 76-9-102(1)(a). This law would best apply in cases of riots or public emergencies where police need to clear public places. However, it may be used more broadly than this, and might not apply appropriately to those situations.
The second area of conduct is the catch-all offense. This covers “knowingly creat[ing] a hazardous or physically offensive condition, by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.” This is also listed under subsection (1)(a) of the disorderly conduct statute. This broad language covers nearly anything that could be considered “hazardous or physically offensive,” that is not specifically criminalized under another statute.
The third area covers “engag[ing] in fighting or in violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior,” under subsection (1)(b)(i). While there are other statutes that cover assault, threats, and other violence, this statute is usually used to cover less-serious physical violence. This may be used to cover arguments that get out of hand, but where there is no real injury. Other assault or threat statutes require physical harm or fear, but this statute merely requires that you intend to cause (or recklessly cause) “inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm” with your actions.
Subsections (1)(b)(ii) and (iii) both cover disorderly conduct for unreasonable noise. These subsections also require the intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. The specific criminalized conduct is making “unreasonable noise.” Subsection (ii) punishes unreasonable noise made in a public place, whereas subsection (iii) punishes unreasonable noise made in a private place, “which can be heard in a public place.” This may be used for especially severe noise complaints and the like.
The final area of conduct that this statute covers is obstructing traffic. Subsection (1)(b)(iv) of the statute punishes both obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic. This means that things like setting up a blockade on a sidewalk or stopping your car sideways in the street could be equally punished as disorderly conduct.
Penalty for Disorderly Conduct in Utah
Disorderly conduct charges may result in a fine, jail time, and a criminal record. In the worst cases, you may spend 90 days in jail for your crimes. Depending on additional circumstances of your crime, you may face lighter penalties.
If you continued your conduct after a request to stop, this crime is elevated to a class C misdemeanor. In Utah, class C misdemeanors are punished with up to 90 days in jail and criminal fines up to $750. This is quite expensive, even if you are given little or no jail time. Additionally, this statute merely requires that “the offense continues after a request to desist.” This does not require that the desist order come from police, so it could come from other authority figures or other people.
If you complied with police and desisted your disorderly conduct, this crime is merely an infraction. This is not punishable with any jail time, but you could still face fines as high as $750. For many, this may be a huge amount of money – one worth avoiding. An attorney may be able to help you avoid these penalties by beating the charges or convincing the police and prosecutors to drop the charges.
As mentioned before, disorderly conduct charges may be used as part of a plea bargain. In those cases, police and prosecutors may agree to drop more serious charges in exchange for a guilty plea to a disorderly conduct offense. There is no default plea deal, and this will not happen unless prosecutors specifically agree to this deal. Talk with an attorney to understand if you might be eligible for negotiations like this.
Challenging Disorderly Conduct Charges
The first important issue in disorderly conduct charges is that most of the subsections of the statute require they be committed in a “public place.” Utah Code § 76-9-102(2) defines a public place, simply, as one that the public has access to. This means that places like stores or hotel lobbies, while privately owned, are still considered “public” for the purpose of this statute.
A second issue with Utah’s disorderly conduct offenses deals with the First Amendment. As many probably know, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution protects your right to free speech, assembly/protest, and other rights. Blocking traffic, failing to disperse after police orders, and making noise may all be part of peaceful protests. As protests are protected by the First Amendment, arresting protestors may infringe on their rights. If you were arrested for disorderly conduct at a protest, talk to an attorney right away.
Salt Lake City Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Darwin Overson of Overson and Sheen is a Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney that represents the accused throughout the Salt Lake City area. In order to challenge the charges against you and avoid expensive fines and jail time, hire an experienced criminal defense attorney to handle your case. For a free consultation on your disorderly conduct charges, call Darwin Overson today at (801) 895-3143.