Minnesota statute 609.72 defines disorderly conduct as any behavior committed in public or private by an individual who is aware that the behavior will cause alarm to others, anger them or disturb them. This includes verbally picking a fight, engaging physically in a fight, disrupting a gathering of people, using obscene or abusive language or gestures, being too noisy and all with the intent to provoke others.
The law does recognize that there are conditions where a person could aggravate people on the technical level of disorderly conduct but are lacking any malicious intent. These occurrences are not a crime. Epileptics receive a special exemption. It may seem unusual for the statute to single out epileptics for exemption, but it is, indeed, appropriate.
Epileptics can exhibit extraordinary behavior during a seizure, as well as when regaining consciousness after a grand mal seizure. When a person regains consciousness from a convulsion they are in a state of confusion. It is not uncommon for them to be combative, striking others or to curse. Complex partial seizures often result in a person being in a trance-like state during which they may curse, spit, physically strike out at others or rave as if outraged. Research indicates that about 20-40 percent of epileptics will curse or behave aggressively during. or immediately after, a seizure.
If a person does not qualify for an epileptic exemption under the disorderly conduct law and has behaved offensively, they could face a disorderly conduct charge. The most common reason a person gets arrested for disorderly conduct is that law enforcement loses patience. Often this is because a citizen disrespects the officer, refuses to cooperate, or exhibits indications that it would be in the best interest of public safety and the citizen’s safety to arrest them. If there is no other violation to justify arrest, a disorderly conduct charge will suffice.
If law enforcement responds to a complaint and resolves the situation without an arrest, then has to return to the scene due to a consecutive complaint regarding the same offense and offender, if no other crime can be charged, the citizen can usually expect an arrest on disorderly conduct. Police will interpret the repeated behavior as intentional after receiving a formal warning from the first response.
If a person has been charged with disorderly conduct there are effective defense challenges to present in court. Although disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense, it is important for any citizen to seek to have the charges dismissed. A conviction of disorderly conduct carries with it the potential of up to six months jail time and a maximum fine of $1,000. Punishment could include any combination of the two. So, although considered a minor offense, a conviction can have a major effect upon a person’s life.
If a person gets arrested for yelling obscenities at a neighbor, or disrupting a meeting in the workplace, or using an obscene hand gesture at an obnoxious person in public, you may very well get charged with disorderly conduct. It is then that you will want to mount an aggressive defense to preserve your reputation and freedom.
One defense option is for a prosecutor to prove that the offense was unintentional. Many things can affect this. A person yelling an expletive in a church sanctuary is very different contextually from yelling heated obscenities at a bar watching a football match.
There are also legitimate arguments on behalf of a defendant with regards to a First Amendment right of free speech. Throwing a tantrum during a workplace meeting is not the same as engaging in a public protest outside the gates of your workplace and screaming your objections.
If you are in need of professional counsel regarding a disorderly conduct offense, please contact us. An experienced attorney from our criminal defense team will represent you aggressively and ensure that you do not have to face this threat to your freedom and reputation alone.
Disclaimer: The content of this article does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Please contact Jennifer Speas to discuss the specifics of your case.