Every state and many local governments have different statutes on certain types of criminal activity. “Disorderly conduct” is a somewhat nebulous term that can apply to many acts, including public intoxication, disturbing the peace, fighting, and other unwanted behaviors. In Virginia, disorderly conduct falls under the purview of crimes against peace and order. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct in Virginia, it’s essential to understand what this charge means, potential defenses, and what to expect in terms of punishment.
The attorneys at Williams Stone, PC, offer criminal defense representation in and around Northern Virginia. We understand how uncertain you may feel about your situation and can provide the most robust defense available under Virginia state laws. Our criminal lawyers have more than 50 years of experience practicing criminal defense law in the state of Virginia, and our team will thoroughly investigate every aspect of your case to develop the most vigorous possible defense against the charges you face.
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
Virginia law considers disorderly conduct as a crime against peace and order, but the term “disorderly conduct” applies to many possible behaviors. For example, the law defines disorderly conduct as any behavior intended to cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to the public. Public intoxication that affects the public in any way would also qualify as disorderly conduct.
The law stipulates that disorderly conduct may apply to disrupting meetings of the public willfully or while intoxicated in government buildings, churches, memorial services, schools, libraries, or other publicly accessible places in any way that prevents the orderly conduction of organized activities in such places or that creates a threat of harm against the people engaged in these organized activities. Virginia law allows those in charge of such facilities to eject an individual who engages in disorderly conduct from their facilities with the aid of any others nearby who may be willing and able to assist them.
Disorderly conduct in Virginia also relates to several other state statutes, such as riot and unlawful assembly, abusive and insulting language, picketing of dwelling places, and activities tending to cause violence. It is common for an individual charged with disorderly conduct to face related charges in a criminal case.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Virginia
Virginia law classifies disorderly conduct as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 is the most severe misdemeanor classification in Virginia’s criminal statutes. Anyone convicted of a Class 1 misdemeanor faces a year in jail, a fine up to $2,500, or both depending on the offense. It is also possible for an individual charged with disorderly conduct in Virginia to face even harsher penalties if they have been charged with additional offenses.
Possible Defenses for Disorderly Conduct in Virginia
The law recognizes several possible defenses a defendant may employ against a charge of disorderly conduct in Virginia, such as:
- Mental state. If the defendant’s attorney can provide enough evidence to show the defendant was not coherent during the event in question, or that the defendant suffers from a diagnosed mental health condition that resulted in a public outburst, the defendant may avoid jail time. However, the defendant may also face mandatory mental health counseling and other alternative penalties. Mental state may also come into play for nonmedical reasons, such as a charged individual not realizing that their behavior was disruptive to others.
- Intoxication. If a defendant engaged in disorderly conduct while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the defense attorney may be able to successfully argue that the defendant was not entirely responsible for their actions due to a substance abuse problem. In this situation, mandatory drug and alcohol counseling and rehabilitation may take the place of jail time as the defendant’s punishment.
- Improper police conduct. In some situations, the best available defense is the conduct of the arresting officers. If the evidence shows that the accused’s rights were violated during arrest or booking, the case may be dismissed.
An experienced criminal defense attorney can help an individual accused of disorderly conduct determine their best available defenses and represent the interests of the accused in a Virginia court.
Why Do I Need an Attorney?
Disorderly conduct may be a relatively low-level criminal offense, but having any criminal record can be incredibly damaging to an individual’s future. It’s possible to secure legal representation for free from a public defender, and most public defenders are excellent attorneys with extensive legal experience. However, they often manage several cases at a time and cannot provide the same level of personal attention to specific cases that a private defense attorney can offer.
The attorneys at Williams Stone, PC, have successfully represented clients facing all types of criminal charges. If you currently face a charge of disorderly conduct in Virginia, our team can provide the legal representation you need for the most vigorous defense possible. Contact us today to schedule a free criminal defense consultation.