If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct in Minnesota, we’re here to help. We’ll cover exactly what this crime is, what its penalties are, and how you can build the strongest possible defense to safeguard your future against the consequences of a criminal record.
What is disorderly conduct in Minnesota?
In Minnesota, you may be charged with disorderly conduct if you act while knowing your actions will alarm, anger, disturb, provoke an assault, or provoke a breach of the peace.
Disorderly conduct can also be referred to as “disturbing the peace.”
The full legal definition of the disorderly conduct charge can be found in section 609.72 of the Minnesota Statutes:
In simple terms, disorderly conduct is disruptive behavior that is offensive to the general public.
What are some examples of disorderly conduct?
Some examples of behaviors that may result in a disorderly conduct charge include:
- Disrupting transportation: Interfering with transportation systems, obstructing traffic, or creating hazards that endanger public safety
- Cursing or abusive language in public: This is more likely if the obscene language causes anger or alarm, or if it disrupts a lawful assembly or meeting.
- Fighting or challenging someone to fight in public: The law in Minnesota specifically prohibits brawling or fighting in a public or private place.
It’s important to note that with charges of disorderly conduct, context is key: behavior that might be considered offensive in one space (churches, schools, neighborhoods) may be acceptable in another (bars, restaurants, sporting events).
Is public intoxication considered disorderly conduct?
No. In Minnesota, public intoxication is not a crime.
Riot and unlawful assembly
In Minnesota, rioting is illegal. A riot is defined as:
- Involving three or more people
- Committing or threatening unlawful force or violence
- Against people or property
Unlawful assembly is a less serious, but similar charge, in which no force or violence is committed or threatened, but instead the group of people has disturbed or threatened “the public peace”.
Penalties for disorderly conduct in Minnesota
If you are convicted of disorderly conduct in Minnesota, you could face up to 90 days in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. In Minnesota, disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, which means that the penalties will be relatively minor.
Because of this, a prosecutor may try to convince you to take a plea deal — but it may be well worth it to fight this charge. That’s because the collateral consequences of having a criminal record can make it difficult to find a job, maintain custody of your children, or even get an apartment. These consequences often far outweigh the fines or jail time. The best way to avoid collateral consequences of a criminal record is to fight to have your charges dismissed.
Aggravating factors for disorderly conduct
Penalties for disorderly conduct may increase under specific circumstances. This includes if you are a caregiver and you commit disorderly conduct against a vulnerable adult — if convicted, you could face up to 364 days in jail and up to $3,000 in fines.
Penalties for riot and unlawful assembly
If you are convicted of unlawful assembly, or of refusal to disperse from an unlawful assembly, you could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
If you are convicted of riot, you could face up to 364 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000. However, if you were armed with a deadly weapon, the penalties may increase to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. And if someone dies as a result of the riot, the penalties increase to up to 20 years in prison, and a fine up to $35,000.
Defenses to a disorderly conduct charge
As you may have guessed, many of the behaviors that fall under “disorderly conduct” are highly situational and context-based. For example, what is considered offensive speech can be subject to interpretation. For this reason, there are many opportunities which your lawyers can use to fight this charge.
Here are some examples of possible defenses your lawyer may use:
- Free speech: To obtain a conviction, the state must first establish that you used “fighting words” or engaged in conduct not protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. This isn’t easy to prove.
- Lack of intent: To be guilty of disorderly conduct, you must also have either known or had reasonable grounds to know that your behavior would cause alarm, anger, disturb others, or provoke an assault. The defense can attempt to show that a reasonable person wouldn’t have reason to believe the behavior in question would cause that response.
- Seizures or uncontrolled movements: A person does not commit disorderly conduct if the behavior was caused by an epileptic seizure. But this extends beyond epilepsy, and covers any uncontrolled movements caused by medical conditions.
- Self defense: In some circumstances, this can be an appropriate defense if you were involved in a fight or brawl and you were defending yourself or others from the threat of immediate harm.
- No lawful assembly or meeting: If you were charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing a lawful assembly or meeting, you can attempt to prove that the meeting was either (1) not qualified to be defined as an assembly, or (2) not lawful. Both options would be a viable defense strategy.
How an attorney can help fight your disorderly conduct charge
Securing the best possible defense for your criminal charges means you have the best chance of reducing your charges, or having them outright dismissed.
An experienced, dedicated attorney will thoroughly investigate the details of your arrest and negotiate the best possible outcomes for you — so you can move on from this moment without the baggage of a criminal record.
If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct, reach out to us for a free consultation to learn more about what your next steps should be. We’re here to help.