Defending Disorderly Conduct Charges

Disorderly conduct is a criminal charge that can be brought against a person for a variety of reasons or, occasionally, for unfounded reasons. An angry or irritated law enforcement officer can charge a person with disorderly conduct if no other criminal charges are warranted. Disorderly conduct is a catch-all criminal charge that includes offensive, rude, or belligerent behavior in a public place.

The West Virginia statute on disorderly conduct provides:

Any person who, in a public place, any office or office building of the State of West Virginia, or in the State Capitol complex, or on any other property owned, leased, occupied or controlled by the State of West Virginia, a mobile home park, a public parking area, a common area of an apartment building or dormitory, or a common area of a privately owned commercial shopping center, mall or other group of commercial retail establishments, disturbs the peace of others by violent, profane, indecent or boisterous conduct or language or by the making of unreasonably loud noise that is intended to cause annoyance or alarm to another person, and who persists in such conduct after being requested to desist by a law-enforcement officer acting in his or her lawful capacity, is guilty of disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, may be confined in jail for twenty-four hours or fined not more than $100: Provided, That nothing in this subsection should be construed as a deterrence to the lawful and orderly public right to demonstrate in support or protest of public policy issues.

The Morgantown City Ordinance on disorderly conduct more specifically describes the type of conduct that can give rise to a charge. § 509.01 provides:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, alarm or harm, he:

  1. On any street, highway, public building, in or on a public or private conveyance, or public place, engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed.
  2. Willfully, or being intoxicated, whether willfully or not, disrupts any meeting of the governing body of any political subdivision of this state or a division or agency thereof, or of any school, literary society, or place of religious worship, or any other meeting open to the public, if such disruption prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of such meeting or has a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such disruption is directed.
  3. Engages in fighting, or threatens to harm persons or property unlawfully.
  4. Makes any gestures, displays, utterances or communication which commonly provoke aggressive or violent reactions in the people to whom such behavior is directed.
  5. Insults, taunts or challenges another under circumstances in which such conduct is likely to provoke a violent response.
  6. Hinders or prevents the movement of persons or vehicles on a public street, road, highway right of way or to, from, within or upon public or private property, so as to interfere with the rights of others, by any act which serves no lawful and reasonable purpose.
  7. Creates a condition that presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property.
  8. Urinates or defecates in any public place or upon the property of any other person except this section shall not apply to the use of restrooms and/or bathrooms.

Nothing described herein shall be interpreted or construed to prevent any constitutionally protected activity including but not necessarily limited to exercise of one’s constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech or assembly. No person may be convicted under this section when his sole intent for engaging in the activities for which he was arrested was to exercise one or more of the rights guaranteed to him under the Constitution of the United States or the State Constitution or to exercise any other rights guaranteed to that person by law.

There are multiple ways to defend against a disorderly conduct charge, including assertion of Constitutional rights, self-defense, and failure to prove the elements of the offense by beyond a reasonable doubt.

The facts of each disorderly conduct charge are different. Simply because another person was convicted of disorderly conduct does not imply that you will be convicted. We will meticulously investigate the facts of your case. Once we have completed the investigation, we will sit down and discuss the facts of your case and your options under the law.

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct and believe that charge is unjust, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at The Moore Law Firm, PLLC have represented many individuals charged with disorderly conduct. We are dedicated to ensuring that all of your Constitutional rights are protected, you are treated fairly, and you are advised of all of your options.