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What is the Charge of Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania?

August 29, 2019

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

At the end of July, a woman was charged with disorderly conduct after urinating on potatoes at a Pennsylvania Walmart. After an employee noticed urine on the floor, they alerted the loss prevention department of the store. Surveillance footage was watched by store executives and law enforcement, and she was identified as a suspect. Her picture was released on social media and soon after, she turned herself in. Now she faces many charges, including disorderly conduct.

What is disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania? What does the crime entail, and are there defenses available?

Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania Defined

In Pennsylvania, disorderly conduct is not defined as any one specific act. Instead, it includes many actions that could be considered unruly. Disorderly conduct charges will typically arise when a person has acted in a way that intentionally or recklessly causes public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Some examples of these behaviors include:

  • Violating noise bylaws
  • Loitering
  • Fighting, or engaging in violent conduct
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Being drunk in public
  • Making obscene gestures, or using obscene language
  • Creating a dangerous situation that serves no real purpose

Due to the fact that Pennsylvania’s statute on disorderly conduct is so broad, it’s very easy to misinterpret. This often results in some people facing disorderly conduct charges when their behavior doesn’t fit the offense.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct in Pennsylvania is considered a summary offense. That is, it’s the least severe charge a person could face. However, penalties still include up to 90 days in jail and a maximum fine of $300. There are also instances that can upgrade the charge, and have those charged facing much more serious consequences.

If the prosecution can prove the accused intended to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience to the public, they may upgrade the charge to a misdemeanor. If convicted, those charged face up to one year in jail and a fine of $2,500.

Defenses to Disorderly Conduct

When pursuing disorderly conduct charges in Pennsylvania, there are several elements the prosecution must prove. As such, defense strategies typically include refuting the arguments made regarding those elements of the case.

The prosecution must prove the accused had the intent to engage in disorderly conduct. Intent is difficult to prove in any case, including those for disorderly conduct. The accused must also have knowledge, which can help prove intent. However, if the accused did not know they were causing a nuisance, they cannot be charged with a crime.

Other defenses to disorderly conduct include self-defense, age, intoxication, and when a person was provoked into the conduct.

Facing Charges? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you’ve been charged with a crime, even a minor one such as disorderly conduct, you need to speak to a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer. If convicted, you face possible jail time, and you will have a criminal record. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, we will build a defense for your case to help ensure that doesn’t happen. Call us at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to schedule a meeting with one of our attorneys so we can start reviewing your case.



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