Nonviolent protesters

Disorderly Conduct can be a Misdemeanor or a Summary offense depending on how the police officer asks that you be charged to the prosecutor or to the judge. The main objective when representing my clients in the Disorderly Conduct case is obviously trying to beat the case, but if not, get the Disorderly Conducted graded as a summary because it is expungeable, meaning that it can be removed from their record. If you are convicted of the misdemeanor, it will be on your record forever unless you are able to get a pardon years later.

The main difference between the grades is if the defendant intended to cause serious harm or inconvenience or if the person refused to cease acting after being asked by law enforcement to stop the conduct is a Misdemeanor. Otherwise, its a summary.

A good way to beat a Disorderly Conduct case is to argue the conduct amounts to speech, protected by the first amendment, thereby negating your intent and making you not guilty. Obscene language is per se speech, therefore, you should never be convicted of Disorderly Conduct based on speech. However, you need a judge with the courage to adopt the case law and find the magic words: not guilty.

Here’s the statute:

§ 5503. Disorderly conduct.
(a) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of disorderly
conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance
or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or
tumultuous behavior;
(2) makes unreasonable noise;
(3) uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture;
or
(4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive
condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of
the actor.
(b) Grading.–An offense under this section is a misdemeanor
of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause
substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in
disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to
desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a summary offense.
(c) Definition.–As used in this section the word “public”
means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which
the public or a substantial group has access; among the places
included are highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons,
apartment houses, places of business or amusement, any
neighborhood, or any premises which are open to the public.

Author: Brian Zeiger
Brian Zeiger

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.