This page is designed to help you better understand the basics of disorderly conduct, what are the elements necessary to be found guilty of disorderly conduct, the difference in consequences between a minor misdemeanor and a fourth degree misdemeanor, and how an attorney can help an individual who is being charged with disorderly conduct.
As you will see the circumstances and consequences for a charge of disorderly conduct, while not terribly severe, can have their downside. Disorderly conduct, just like any other crime, is always a serious matter that can have lasting consequences on that individual’s reputation and life if they are not careful. A person should always be aware of the situation they are involved in and whether or not they should be doing what they are doing.
Note: Just as with any other legal situation, if an individual finds themselves being accused of or charged with disorderly conduct, they should not hesitate to contact an attorney. It is a smart tactical move and can prevent a person from incriminating themselves or possibly getting themselves into even more trouble. This page details the specifics regarding the law of disorderly conduct in the state of Ohio, and can vary from state-to-state. This article and its contents are merely for informative purposes and should not be construed as legal advice. For accurate and up-to-date legal advice, an individual should contact an attorney or legal professional.
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
Merriam-Webster defines disorderly conduct as “a petty offense chiefly against public order and decency that falls short of an indictable misdemeanor.”
The legal definition is a little more nuanced. It is more inclusive: “Almost every state has a disorderly conduct law making it a crime to be drunk in public, “disturb the peace,” or loiter in certain areas. Since the statutes are often used as “catch-all” crimes, many types of obnoxious or unruly conduct may fit the definition. Police often use a disorderly conduct charge to keep the peace when a person is behaving in a disruptive manner, but presents no serious public danger.”
Regardless of either definition, disorderly conduct almost always falls within an example where public order is the necessary goal.
What Are The Elements of Disorderly Conduct?
For the state of Ohio, disorderly conduct is covered under the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) § 2917.11. Specifically, what qualifies as “disorderly conduct” is outlined under Subsections (A)-(D) of § 2917.11.
§ 2917.11(A)-(D) states:
“(A) No person shall recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another by doing any of the following:
(1) Engaging in fighting, in threatening harm to persons or property, or in violent or turbulent behavior;
(2) Making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture, or display or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person;
(3) Insulting, taunting, or challenging another, under circumstances in which that conduct is likely to provoke a violent response;
(4) Hindering or preventing the movement of persons on a public street, road, highway, or right-of-way, or to, from, within, or upon public or private property, so as to interfere with the rights of others, and by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender;
(5) Creating a condition that is physically offensive to persons or that presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property, by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender.”
Breaking It Down: In all of these examples, one thing is common: an individual should not do anything that would reasonably offend or annoy another person in a public or possibly private place. This includes fighting, offensive communication or gestures to another person, insulting someone to the point where it may cause a violent response, preventing someone from being able to move freely, interfering with the rights of others, creating a situation that is offensive or could cause harm to another person. All of these actions can constitute a disorderly conduct charge.
“(B) No person, while voluntarily intoxicated, shall do either of the following:
(1) In a public place or in the presence of two or more persons, engage in conduct likely to be offensive or to cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to persons of ordinary sensibilities, which conduct the offender, if the offender were not intoxicated, should know is likely to have that effect on others;
(2) Engage in conduct or create a condition that presents a risk of physical harm to the offender or another, or to the property of another.”
Breaking It Down: If a person is voluntarily intoxicated, they should avoid engaging in offensive conduct, inconveniencing or annoying another, and engaging in a situation that may result in physical harm to another person or property. If a voluntarily intoxicated person does any of these things, they could possibly face a disorderly conduct charge.
“(C) Violation of any statute or ordinance of which an element is operating a motor vehicle, locomotive, watercraft, aircraft, or other vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or any drug of abuse, is not a violation of division (B) of this section.”
Breaking It Down: If a person is voluntarily intoxicated and they violate a statute or ordinance where one of the elements is operating a motor vehicle, locomotive, etc., they are in violation of that statute or ordinance, but are not engaging in disorderly conduct.
“(D) If a person appears to an ordinary observer to be intoxicated, it is probable cause to believe that person is voluntarily intoxicated for purposes of division (B) of this section.”
Breaking It Down: For Subsection (B), if an ordinary person observes an individual to be voluntarily intoxicated, that is enough to believe that that individual is voluntarily intoxicated.
What Are The Consequences If Found Guilty of Disorderly Conduct?
The consequences and different classifications for disorderly conduct are covered under Subsection (E) of § 2917.11. The subsection qualifies that there are two different categories that a disorderly conduct charge can fall into. The first is a minor misdemeanor, the second category is a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
Subsection (E)(1)-(2) explains that a normal violation of Subsection (A) or Subsection (B) is typically a minor misdemeanor.
§ 2917.11(E)(1)-(2) states:
(1) Whoever violates this section is guilty of disorderly conduct.
(2) Except as otherwise provided in division (E)(3) of this section, disorderly conduct is a minor misdemeanor.”
Breaking It Down: if in the case that a disorderly conduct charge is a minor misdemeanor, a person will not be arrested. Rather they will be written a citation and a possible fine of up to $150.
Subsection (3) provides a list of criteria that an individual must meet before the disorderly conduct charge will be elevated from a minor misdemeanor to a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
§ 2917.11(E)(3)(a)-(d) states:
“(3) Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor of the fourth degree if any of the following applies:
(a) The offender persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist.
(b) The offense is committed in the vicinity of a school or in a school safety zone.
(c) The offense is committed in the presence of any law enforcement officer, firefighter, rescuer, medical person, emergency medical services person, or other authorized person who is engaged in the person’s duties at the scene of a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind.
(d) The offense is committed in the presence of any emergency facility person who is engaged in the person’s duties in an emergency facility.”
Breaking It Down: If in the case that a disorderly conduct charge is elevated to a fourth-degree misdemeanor, the person charged could face up to thirty days in jail and/or a possible fine of up to $250. To see a disorderly conduct charge elevated, the individual usually has to persist in the activity that warranted the disorderly conduct charge, was near a school, or committed the offensive conduct in the presence of an officer, firefighter, rescuer, medical person, or emergency facility person who may be trying to perform their job.