Is Disorderly Conduct a Misdemeanor?

According to the Department of Justice, 201,080 adults were arrested for disorderly conduct in 2020. That figure represents nearly 3% of all offenses in America, making this charge even more common than petty crimes like vandalism. If you’ve been detained for disorderly conduct, you’ll want to know what the charge entails and how we can help you. With this blog, you’ll learn exactly what you’ve been charged with and what to do next.

What Is Disorderly Conduct?

disorderly conduct rulingDisorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense in most states — at least for the first arrest. In Las Vegas, disorderly conduct carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. State lawmakers enact disorderly conduct statutes to help keep people safe and neighborhoods peaceful.

The prosecutor’s office will be looking for an event that impacts the community before seeking a conviction. This charge applies to behaviors that disturb the peace or threaten public safety. You may be charged with disorderly conduct if you intentionally engage in a broad range of activities, from simply annoying your neighbor or yelling obscenities at a football game to an act that injures another or their property.

What Behaviors Constitute Disorderly Conduct?

While every state is different, a range of behaviors often qualifies as disorderly conduct, regardless of the state or municipality in which it occurs. Some of these types of conduct include:


Many prosecutors charge people who fight in public with disorderly conduct. There are occasions when a more serious charge of assault or battery may apply, depending on the circumstances. However, this decision is left to the state. Just know that even quarreling or challenging someone to fight could result in a guilty charge.

Disruptive Protests

The First Amendment protects your right to protest, but it doesn’t protect you if you act in a disruptive manner. It’s essential to brush up on your rights before you head out so that you don’t risk a disorderly conduct charge. For example, if your sit-in demonstration blocks traffic and you refuse to move, you may find yourself in court. It’s unlawful to interrupt a public assembly, such as a city council meeting, a public rally, or a religious ceremony, and that behavior can qualify as disorderly conduct.

Public Misconduct

Some behaviors are not allowed in public for the good of the community, such as urinating on the sidewalk, sexual conduct, and intoxication. Often, city officials have had to regulate these activities, which are punishable under each municipality’s disorderly conduct statutes.

Police Encounters

You may also face disorderly conduct charges if you don’t follow instructions from law enforcement. You usually won’t get arrested for simply arguing with an officer or failing to comply with orders quickly. However, be careful if you’re behaving in a threatening manner or if there’s an issue of crowd control. Always do what you’re asked to avoid a citation.

What Factors Affect Disorderly Conduct Laws?

Disorderly conduct laws differ significantly across the country. However, states typically look at these three categories when determining if disorderly conduct applies:


Circumstances are a significant factor when determining if disorderly conduct applies. For example, shouting foul language loudly in your neighborhood after midnight may earn you a citation. However, this behavior is considered normal on a construction site. The law typically states that the act must be a malicious and willful attempt to disturb the peace.


For a disorderly conduct charge to stick, the prosecutor must show that the accused’s actions would have harmed a reasonable person. This factor means it isn’t always necessary for the court to bring about witnesses against you to get a conviction.


Location is another critical component of disorderly conduct laws. These statutes aim to protect the public, so courts conclude that disruptive behavior should be avoided in common areas such as public restrooms, festivals, hospitals, and private establishments open for general entertainment. However, that’s not always the case. Even if the disorderly conduct occurs in private and disturbs others — typically neighbors — it may be enough to satisfy the public requirement.

What Are Common Disorderly Conduct Defenses?

An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help you if you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct. If you’re innocent, a typical defense is to say that it wasn’t you. However, it’s more likely that your attorney will try to poke holes in the prosecution’s case by challenging certain elements that the state can’t prove. They’ll try to argue that your behavior wasn’t offensive or disruptive, nor would it alarm a reasonable person.

Because disorderly conduct statutes cover a broad range of actions, they’re frequently subject to constitutional challenges. For instance, if a state’s statute violates your First Amendment rights, it may be found unconstitutional. Another defense is to challenge the language of the law. If it’s vague, your lawyer could stipulate that a reasonable person wouldn’t know that the conduct was prohibited. So, if you’re detained for disorderly conduct, follow these critical steps:

  • Do not resist arrest, or you could face additional charges.
  • Remain silent, and don’t make any statements to the police, as they’ll be used against you.
  • Attend every court hearing unless your lawyer tells you otherwise. If you’re convicted, request to have your record sealed following Nevada’s one-year waiting period.

What To Do if You’re Arrested for Disorderly Conduct

If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct in Las Vegas, you may have a strong defense, even if you believe you’re guilty. It’s crucial to understand that the prosecutor must prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. If they can’t do that, or if the police violate your constitutional rights, such as your Miranda rights and the First Amendment right to free speech, there may be grounds for dismissal. Take immediate steps to protect your legal rights and retain an experienced criminal defense attorney to help you conduct a thorough investigation and develop a strong defense strategy.

Are You Dealing With a Disorderly Conduct Charge?

Disorderly conduct may seem like a minor charge, but it can seriously impact your life. If you have been charged with any criminal charge in Las Vegas, speak to one of our expert criminal defense lawyers immediately. We’ll do our best to help you get the charges against you dismissed or reduced to a less serious offense.

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