Under Maryland law, a person may not engage in what is known as disorderly conduct or what is sometimes referred to as disturbing the peace. Several different actions are considered to be criminal conduct under the relevant Maryland statute. See Md. Code Criminal Law 10-201. Disorderly conduct includes the willful and without lawful purpose obstruction or hindrance of the free passage of another in a public place or on a public conveyance, willfully acting in a disorderly manner that disturbs the public peace, and failing to obey a reasonable and lawful order that a law enforcement officer makes to prevent a disturbance to the public peace. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, contact our office today for a free consultation with an experienced Baltimore County criminal defense attorney to discuss a defense strategy and ways to avoid a conviction altogether or to at least minimize the consequences of a possible conviction.
Obstruction or Hindrance of Another’s Free Passage
It is considered disorderly conduct to willfully obstruct the free passage of another person in a public place or on a public conveyance without a lawful purpose. A “public place” is any place that the public or a portion of the public has access to, and a right to resort to for business, entertainment, dwelling, or other lawful purposes. A “public conveyance” is any mode of transportation to which the public or a portion of the public has access and a right to use including airplanes, vessels, buses, railway cars, school vehicles, or subway cars.
Disturbing the Peace
Willfully acting in a disorderly manner that disturbs the public peace is another form of disorderly conduct. To act “willfully” means that an act must be both performed knowingly and with deliberate intention. When one acts by mistake, accident, carelessness, or another innocent reason, then the act is not necessarily willful under the law. Acting in a disorderly manner means doing and/or saying something that offends, disturbs, incites, or tends to incite other persons gathered in the same area to the disturbance of the public peace.
Failure to Obey a Law Enforcement Officer
Disorderly conduct also includes failing to obey a reasonable and lawful order that a law enforcement officer makes to prevent a disturbance to the public peace.
Defenses to Disorderly Conduct
The following are some possible defenses that a defendant could raise to a disorderly conduct charge:
- First Amendment Rights: If the conduct was a form of protected speech, such as protesting or engaging in a peaceful demonstration, it may be possible to argue that the behavior was protected by the First Amendment.
Lack of Intent: Disorderly conduct requires a specific intent to disturb the peace or engage in disorderly behavior. If the defendant did not intend to engage in such behavior, they may be able to argue that they did not commit the offense.
- Self-Defense: If the defendant’s behavior was a reaction to someone else’s violent or threatening conduct, they may be able to argue that they acted in self-defense.
- Police Misconduct: If the defendant’s conduct was a result of police misconduct, such as an unlawful arrest or excessive force, it may be possible to argue that the charges should be dropped.
Medical Condition: If the defendant has a medical condition that could have contributed to their behavior, such as a mental illness or an adverse reaction to medication, they may be able to argue that they were not in control of their actions at the time of the offense.
It’s important to note that the success of these defenses will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
Penalty for Disorderly Conduct
Even though disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor criminal offense, a person who is charged with it should take it seriously because, if convicted, would be subject to a maximum penalty of up to 60 days of incarceration and/or a fine of up to $500.00. Any criminal conviction on your record, even for a misdemeanor offense, can have long-lasting effects on a person’s ability to seek and maintain employment, possible immigration consequences, possible professional licensing consequences, and possible other collateral consequences. See The National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction for a compete list.
Baltimore County, MD Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Contact our office today for a free consultation with a Baltimore County, MD experienced criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with disorderly conduct. During a free consultation, our Principal Attorney will meet with you to discuss the facts surrounding your case, possible defense strategies, and ways to avoid a criminal conviction, or at the very least, ways to minimize the consequences of a possible criminal conviction.
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