Los Angeles Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Disorderly conduct charges are intimidating. If charged, your criminal record, your job, and your future can all be affected. In the state of California, disorderly conduct is also referred to as “disturbing the peace.” It encompasses actions that are disruptive and interrupt public activity or spaces. While the severity of punishments varies depending on your exact charge, a disorderly conduct offense is never easy to deal with alone. If you were arrested on charges of disorderly conduct in the Los Angeles area, it’s crucial that you seek an attorney that you can trust to help you fight them.
At the Law Office of Stein & Markus, our attorneys have over five decades of experience in criminal defense. After defending hundreds of clients with successful outcomes, our team is ready to win their next case by helping you with your charge. Whether you are facing minor disorderly conduct charges or serious criminal offenses, no other legal team can represent you as we can. With our extensive experience, compassionate approach, and knowledge of the law, our team can guide you through your case and fight for the best outcome possible. Contact our firm to see how our attorneys can assist you with disorderly conduct charges in the Los Angeles area today.
What Is “Disturbing the Peace” In California?
According to the California Penal Code, disturbing the peace occurs when the behavior of a person or group is offensive, disruptive, or drastically interrupts a public space or activity that is taking place. Disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct in California law is broken down into the following categories:
General Disorderly Conduct
General disorderly conduct covers a wide range of actions that are considered disruptive. Being too intoxicated (on drugs or alcohol) in public, invading a person’s privacy, or loitering are all actions that could land someone a disorderly conduct charge. General disorderly conduct can also cover behaviors such as refusal to leave a property or disruptive loitering. If charged, penalties range from a fine to jail time.
Fighting / Excessive Noise / Offensive Language or Actions
Challenging someone to a fight, engaging in violent behavior, as well as fighting someone without the “right” to do so in public, are all considered methods of disturbing the peace in California. For instance, if two people get into a violent fight in a restaurant parking lot, they are engaging in disruptive behavior. Because of their actions and their location, they can be arrested for disorderly conduct.
Noise issues are another popular charge for disturbing the peace. Playing music that is much too loud, excessive noise from your home, loud arguments, etc., are all examples of noise issues that can become disorderly conduct offenses quickly, especially if you live somewhere with neighbors that are close by.
Offensive language and behavior can both be classified as disorderly conduct—that is when it can be proven that it was done intentionally. For example, using a slur in front of a public crowd with the specific intention to degrade someone or offend and hurt them could result in a disorderly conduct charge.
California Penal Code 404 defines a riot as disturbing the peace, using force or violence, or threatening to do so, with a group of two or more people, and without the authority of law. In simpler terms, a riot is when a group of people commit violent conduct in public or against public order and refuse to disperse.
The important difference between riots and unlawful gatherings is that riots are considered to have some form of violence involved. For example, if peaceful protesters gathered outside a local government office without permission and then the group was asked to disperse and did not, the people that were present could be charged with unlawful gathering in a public space. If that same protest was to get violent, cause property damage, and result in injuries, whether it was law officials or other groups of people, those arrested would be charged with rioting.
Disturbing the Peace on a School Campus
Disturbing the peace on a school campus is a separate category from disorderly conduct for a few reasons. The main reason is that it is illegal for people that are not students at a school to engage in disorderly conduct such as fighting, using excessive noise or offensive language, and rioting on school property. For instance, if a group of protestors that were not students decided to gather on a college campus with blow horns to spread whatever message they have, they can be charged for disturbing the peace on a college campus as they didn’t have permission to be there in the first place and were disruptive in addition to it.
Refusal to Disperse
Refusal to disperse is a form of disturbing the peace in California that refers to a group of two or more people gathering in public, ignoring public order and authority, and continuing with their actions. This can include failure to listen to a police officer if they ask your group to leave a public area. Refusal to disperse charges is often seen when law officers get involved at protests and the protestors will not leave, resulting in arrests. They can also happen when a group of people are loitering and refuse to leave an area they don’t have permission to be in.
Improper Sexual Conduct
Disorderly conduct charges can also cover a variety of improper sexual acts, most often those that occur in public places. “Peeping” occurs when an individual is invading a person’s privacy for sexual gratification. Engagement in prostitution, or soliciting it, as well as other lewd acts in public. These actions all qualify as a form of disorderly conduct in California.
Being Charged with Disorderly Conduct Violations in California
Even if you were arrested on a disorderly conduct offense, there is still a possibility that you won’t be charged with it in the end. In order to be charged with disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace in California, the local prosecution needs to be able to prove multiple of the following factors, (depending on what kind of disorderly conduct your case involves):
It Was Done Willfully
When trying to charge a defendant with disturbing the peace in California, the prosecution needs to prove or have the jury conclude that the actions were performed willingly. This means that the defendant in question chose to break or violate the law and they intended on doing so. While some behaviors themselves may not be breaking the law, like playing music too loud, it’s the act of doing so to purposefully disrupt others that can be. If someone was, for example, under the influence against their will, it could be proven that the actions they performed were not done willingly, allowing them to avoid charges.
Occurred in a Public Place
One of the biggest factors that classify a charge like disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace is whether or not the defendant’s actions occurred in a public place. Whether a person was using excessive noise and bothering others or they started a violent fight, the property the defendant was on was not theirs, to begin with. This means they don’t have the right to do either of these things on that property or disturb the peace of that given area.
While malicious intent is not always an aspect of every disorderly conduct charge, it can make penalties more severe if the prosecution can prove it was there. For example, if two people who had previous disagreements get into a fight at a bar that resulted in one of them being seriously injured, the prosecution could attempt to prove malicious intent was there because the defendant already disliked the person whom they injured. Malicious intent is not always easy to prove, but if it is there it can easily change a disorderly conduct charge from an infraction to a misdemeanor.
Unlawfulness plays a part in most disorderly conduct cases. A defendant’s actions may not seem to be illegal, but when they perform them in a public space without the right to do so, it can turn into a violation of the law. Therefore, it makes whatever the defendant was doing unlawful. Disorderly conduct charges for fighting in public areas are the most common cases you will see unlawfulness used in a trial.
Challenged Someone in a Fight or Fought Someone
If the prosecution is trying to charge the defendant with disorderly conduct for fighting, they need to be able to prove in trial that the defendant did indeed challenge someone to a fight and it was disruptive or that they got into an actual violent altercation with another person. If there is not enough evidence that the defendant was in the fight or started the fight in question, then they might be able to avoid the charges and penalties with the right legal team. In many cases, especially with larger fights, multiple people may be arrested but only the ones who started the fight or were most involved are ultimately charged.
Misdemeanors vs. Infractions in California
When dealing with a disorderly conduct case, you will come across the terms “misdemeanor” and “infraction” quite often. These are some of the classifications of disorderly conduct charges– and they will have an effect on the penalties that are received if the defendant is found guilty.
In California, a misdemeanor is defined as a crime where a person cannot receive more than a maximum of 1 year in jail for their offense. To put it into perspective, a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony but more serious than an infraction.
An infraction, on the other hand, is what minor offenses are usually classified as within California law. Infractions are not considered crimes in the eyes of the law, but just violations. If someone is being charged with an infraction, the maximum penalty they can receive is a fine of $250 and the court is not allowed to sentence jail time as punishment. Infractions are more like tickets whereas a misdemeanor is considered a crime.
Potential Penalties of a Los Angeles Disorderly Conduct Charge
Because there is a wide range of charges that lie within disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace in California, the potential penalties of each offense vary. Whether or not the charge is considered a misdemeanor also affects the defendant’s penalty. Some disorderly conduct penalties you might see in California include:
Fines are the most common penalties for both infractions and misdemeanors. The cost of the fine a defendant is charged with disturbing the peace in California can range anywhere from $200 to $1,000. Your fine amount will vary depending on your charge and the subsequent offenses that came along with it.
Whether or not a defendant receives jail time as punishment for their offenses depends on whether or not they are charged with a misdemeanor or an infraction. From there, it is also possible that the defendant receives a fine or other subsequent penalties on top of jail time.
Multiple penalties usually occur when the offender consequently injured an innocent bystander or when one penalty is shortened and the punishment is split. For instance, some people may receive jail time of 12 months for a charge while others may receive 6 months and a $1,000 fine. It all depends on the case, the charges, and the trial. It is possible that your lawyer can fight for alternative sentencing to jail if your case proves you would benefit from it.
Community service is sometimes assigned as a penalty in disturbing the peace cases when the defendant is a minor. While it is not as commonly received in disorderly conduct cases, community service is often added on as an additional punishment, i.e., someone receives a fine and community service for their infraction.
Probation is a penalty given that is highly dependent on the defendant themselves as well as any of their previous infractions. If the defendant is ultimately charged with disorderly conduct and it is classified as a misdemeanor, it is possible that they can receive a shortened sentence of jail time and probation or possibly even just probation depending on the case.
What to Do After Being Arrested for Disorderly Conduct in Los Angeles, CA
As with any case where you are apprehended or held by law officials, it is crucial to know what your constitutional rights are and what to do if you are arrested. The following are things to know if you are arrested for disorderly conduct in California:
You Can Only Be Arrested Under Certain Circumstances
A law enforcement officer is only able to arrest you if:
- They witnessed you commit a crime or violation of the law firsthand.
- They have probable cause that you are committing a crime or violating the law.
- There is a warrant for your arrest issued by the court.
Your Miranda Rights Need to Be Read
While a common misconception is that your Miranda rights need to be read as soon as an arrest begins, a law enforcement officer does not have to read you your rights until they question you. With that said, in more minor offenses, an official will most often read your rights at the beginning, just so you are aware of them going forward. If you are taken into custody and questioned, your Miranda rights have to be read or it’s a violation of the law.
Comply with the Officers
Being arrested can be stressful, intimidating, and confusing. Regardless of what you may be apprehended for, it is always best to comply with an officer of the law to avoid any later charges or issues. Refusing to comply with an officer’s orders can increase your penalties if you are charged and can also result in its own punishments.
Excessive Force Cannot Be Used
It is important to note that when an officer is making an arrest, especially for a disturbing the peace offense, excessive force is not allowed to be used. If you were arrested in California and believe excessive force by a law enforcement officer was used, notify your legal team immediately as your charges can be fought.
Seek Legal Representation
Whether you are kept in custody or let out until your court hearing, it is vital that you seek legal representation to guide you through the rest of this process. What happens next will depend largely on what you were arrested for and how you want to go about it, but having a lawyer there to explain the legality of it all will help immensely.
Possible Defenses for a Disorderly Conduct Criminal Defense Case
Disturbing the peace/disorderly conduct charges can happen for a variety of reasons in a wide array of circumstances. From speaking your mind to defending yourself in a fight, it is important to make sure that your side of the story is heard in your case. Some common defenses used in these types of cases are:
If you were involved in a physical fight that may have turned violent, self-defense is a prominent defense for your case, especially if you did not initiate the fight. To use self-defense as your main defense, your lawyer must be able to prove that you believed you were in imminent danger and you had to protect yourself from it. Your case has an even better chance if you have witnesses to help corroborate your story.
Involuntary Actions / Intoxication
In some cases, a lawyer can argue that the actions you performed may have been involuntary. While this defense is sometimes more difficult to use, it is most often seen in cases where poor judgment, alcohol, or even a disability, prevents someone from acting properly.
Separately, there is a defense known as involuntary intoxication. This can be used if someone is being charged with, for example, disorderly conduct, and they were under the influence at the time without their consent. This would mean that they also had little to no control over their own actions.
Freedom of Speech
Whether you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol and said something you now regret or you said something blatantly offensive, you can attempt to use your right to freedom of speech as your defense in court. According to the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment grants any American citizen the right to freedom of speech. This allows them to say anything they think, feel, or believe, as long as it does not hurt another person.
Improper Police Action
Sometimes cases are not handled properly by the law officials that were involved. When this happens, improper police action or improper police handling can be used as a defense against a disorderly conduct charge. One situation where you might see this defense is when a crowd of people is being violent and disorderly but the police only arrest a few of them— some of whom may not have been as involved or even involved at all. Improper police action can also be used if a police officer did not act lawfully during the arrest of the defendant or used excessive force.
What Is a Disorderly Conduct Lawyer and Why Do You Need One?
A disorderly conduct attorney is an experienced lawyer that focuses their efforts specifically on areas in criminal defense, like disorderly conduct. They handle cases that involve everything from violent physical altercations to drunk and disorderly charges. Hiring a professional disorderly conduct attorney can benefit you in a variety of ways, such as:
Legal Knowledge / Navigating the Legal Process
One of the most important reasons you need an expert criminal defense attorney at your side is because they have extensive legal knowledge. With their experience and knowledge of the law, they can help guide you through the complicated legal proceedings of a case, especially when it goes to trial. Legal trials are often long, complicated, and involve a great deal of paperwork and organization. Most of the time, it can be a bit too overwhelming for a client to try and handle it all—which is where a disorderly conduct attorney can help.
Give Individualized Representation
Hiring a criminal defense attorney that specializes in disorderly conduct charges can help your case in more ways than one. With an expert criminal defense lawyer like our attorneys at The Law Office of Stein & Markus, you will receive a much more individualized approach to your case and the way you are represented throughout your trial. This is because public defenders often have too much on their plates, causing them to have to divert attention and not always give the energy they need to a case. With our disorderly conduct attorneys working for you, you can trust that we will do our best to represent you in the best way possible.
Fight for the Best Possible Outcome
You can also trust that an expert criminal defense attorney will work their hardest to fight for the best possible outcome for you and your case, especially versus a public defender. An experienced attorney can not only present you with multiple options on how to go about your case, but they can help guide you to what might be best for you overall. Your attorney will know the ins and outs of the legal system and how they can build a case that will fight for you.
Stein & Markus: Criminal Defense Attorneys You Can Trust
Being potentially charged with a disorderly conduct offense is daunting. Do not try and go through the process by yourself. Instead, hire an attorney that you can trust to fight for you throughout your case. At The Law Office of Stein & Markus, we are dedicated to helping our clients get through whatever situation they may have found themselves in. We have 75 years of combined experience in criminal defense and are prepared to create a case that fights for the best possible outcome. For an expert disorderly conduct attorney or criminal defense lawyer in the Los Angeles area, contact our team to learn more about how we can help you.
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If you are under investigation or have been charged with any federal crime in California, The Law Office of Stein & Markus in Bellflower is ready to meet with you, explain your legal rights, and start building a defense for you. Arrange a free initial consultation by calling (562) 512-7030 or contact us online today.
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