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What is Disorderly Conduct?

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What is Disorderly Conduct?

With most criminal charges, it doesn’t take much to figure out that the lion’s share come from activities that take place during the night. When it comes to disorderly conduct, this is no exception.

Take alcohol, a crowd, music, and the additional element of the opposite sex, people will sometimes come across trouble whether or not they are looking for it.


Disorderly Conduct (aka: “Drunk in Public”)


The more accurate label for disorderly conduct is really drunk in public. This may seem strange if you come from a city with a large population since most people need to get home—so of course they’re going to be drunk in public. But it’s not that simple.


Once police arrive to a local watering hole, they will have a mind to look for a type of drinker that has had way too much to drink—to the point that they have now disturbed their surroundings.


The Law of Disorderly Conduct and the Law of Drunk in Public


Penal Code Section 647(f) classifies the offense of being drunk in public. To be found guilty or to be convicted of this charge, a person must:


  1. Willfully under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance,
  2. Be in a public place at the time of being under the influence,
  3. And, either (1) cannot care for themself or other’s safety or (2) interfere, obstruct, or prevent the free use of a public walkway.


The complexities that go into each of the elements above are a discussion for another time. However, notice how many factual scenarios can make someone fall into this offense or fall out of it.


Disturbing the Peace


Often, in order to avoid the embarrassment of a “drunk in public” charge or to wiggle away the prosecutions case through investigation and evidence, a client may secure what is called a “disturbing the peace” charge.


Disturbing the peace can be a much more attractive option for a client because of the vague and relatively low-level nature of the charge. Some practitioner’s often refer to disturbing the peace as a “Catch-All” charge that substitutes well for cases that simply can’t be dismissed but don’t belong where they are. Disturbing the Peace is codified under Penal Code Section 415.

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