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How a Night On the Town Could Lead to a Disorderly Conduct Charge


Going out and having fun can lead to some crazy stories, but it can also land you in handcuffs and facing criminal charges. Continue reading to learn 4 types of disorderly conduct and how you could accidentally break the law on your night out.

Under Wisconsin Statute 947, disorderly conduct is disruptive behavior that causes, or tends to cause, a disturbance of the peace. Although the law is relatively vague, it outlines a number of specific disruptions, including: unreasonably loud, violent, dangerous, and/or indecent behavior.

  1. Disruptive Speech

Having a few drinks can make you increase your speaking volume. Yelling is disruptive and can lead to a disorderly conduct charge. You can also face a disorderly conduct charge if:

  • You are playing music loud enough for your neighbors to hear.
  • Your “musical” singing voice is disrupting others.
  • You scream profanities at your buddies for all others to hear.

Whether or not you find the behavior entertaining, it can lead to a Class B disorderly conduct misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.

Disruptive Speech vs. Freedom of Speech

It is important to understand how your First Amendment right comes into play involving a disorderly conduct charge. Under the First Amendment, your freedom of speech cannot be impeded by the government or by other speakers; conversely, you may not impede others’ right to speak either. This argument has been used to challenge Wisconsin’s disorderly conduct law, arguing that your disruption is impeding the rights of others.

  1. Violent Behavior

Another way to be charged with disorderly conduct is to behave aggressively or violently. This behavior can, but does not have to, include another human being; if you throw a smoke bomb or firecracker with the intent to scare or harass others, you are committing an act of disorderly conduct.

Before you and your buddies decide to throw a few punches for fun, think about this: if you and your friend mutually decide to fight, the fight itself is not a form of assault. Rather, it will be classified as a form of disorderly conduct. In this example, you and your friend could both face misdemeanor charges.

  1. Unlawful Assembly

If your behavior with friends is so disruptive or dangerous that a significant chance of someone being injured exists, your assembly is unlawful. This is only the case if there are 3 or more people in the group. If you do not disperse from the assembly after a law enforcement officer has informed you to do so, you may face disorderly conduct charges.

Unlawful Assembly vs. Your Right to Assemble

Similar to disruptive speech, you cannot typically use your First Amendment right as a defense against disorderly conduct. Legal assembly is peaceful and does not impede the rights of others; because of its disruptive nature, unlawful assembly directly impedes the rights of others.

  1. Indecent Behavior

Indecent or lewd behavior occurs when a person imitates or performs an inappropriate action for the purpose of making others uncomfortable. This may include “mooning” or showing other private parts.

It is important to note that this crime is different from “indecent exposure,” as the purpose of the act is not to seek sexual gratification, but to annoy or bother other people. If the action was for the purpose of arousal, the charges could escalate to a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 9 months in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

What About Public Intoxication?

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin law does not recognize public intoxication as a crime. Although police have the right to take you into protective custody, they cannot charge you with disorderly conduct for simply being drunk in public.

If You Received a Disorderly Conduct Citation, Call the Law Offices of Christopher J. Cherella at (414) 882-8382.

Don’t ignore the citation! If you do not appear for the assigned court date, the court will issue a warrant for your arrest and you could face additional criminal charges. Contact Milwaukee Criminal Defense Attorney Christopher J. Cherella. He has more than 20 years of experience in criminal law and has built a reputation of success. His experience as a former prosecutor gives him the upper hand in developing a solid defensive strategy for his clients.

A disorderly conduct conviction is a mark on your criminal record, which can affect your job and your livelihood! Discuss your case with an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense lawyer: (414) 882-8382. He is available 24/7 and offers free consultations!

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