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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Disorderly Conduct California – What is it & can I go to jail?

By Spodek Law Group | February 12, 2023

Why Disorderly Conduct in California Should Not be Taken Lightly

The Catch-All Crime that Thousands of People are Arrested for in Los Angeles

California’s disorderly conduct statute is one of the state’s broadest laws, covering seemingly unrelated and minor criminal activities that could result in a misdemeanor conviction, a criminal record, and even time spent in county jail. Thousands of people are arrested in and around Los Angeles every year for disorderly conduct offenses, leading to criticism about law enforcement arresting people simply because they are being an “annoyance.”

Why You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney to Review Your Charges

To avoid the serious consequences of a disorderly conduct conviction, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles review the circumstances of your arrest and determine whether or not a crime was actually committed. At Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers have over 70 years of experience in handling disorderly conduct cases. We will examine your charges from every angle and fight to get your charges reduced or even dropped if possible.

Don’t plead guilty without speaking to us first!

Actions That Could Result in Disorderly Conduct Charges

California Penal Code § 647 describes a wide range of acts that constitute disorderly conduct. This “catch-all” crime applies to a number of different activities, including engaging in lewd or dissolute conduct in a public place, engaging in prostitution or soliciting sex for money, loitering around private property with no lawful purpose, squatting or living in a building without permission, being drunk or otherwise intoxicated in a public place, begging for money or soliciting alms in a public place, loitering around a public toilet to engage in lewd acts, peeping through the window of a private structure, using a camera or binoculars to peep (i.e. Peeping Tom), fighting or using offensive words in a public place.

The Serious Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in California

Since disorderly conduct is charged as a misdemeanor offense in California, a conviction could result in up to 180 days in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If you are convicted of a second or subsequent disorderly conduct offense, you may face enhanced sentencing, including up to one year in county jail and $2,000 in fines. If the victim of your crime was a minor at the time of the offense, you could be sentenced to jail for one year and fined $2,000.

Other Criminal Offenses Treated as “Disorderly Conduct”

Although some crimes are not specifically listed under the disorderly conduct statute, they may be treated as such in regard to prosecution and sentencing. For example, participating in a riot (Cal. Penal Code § 404), disturbing the peace (Cal. Penal Code § 415), and refusing to disperse (Cal. Penal Code § 404) are also treated like disorderly conduct offenses.

In conclusion, disorderly conduct charges in California are serious and could have long-lasting consequences. If you are facing such charges, it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you understand your legal rights and fight to protect them.

Disorderly Conduct Laws in California

Despite the absence of a specific law, California takes disorderly conduct seriously. The state groups a range of minor offenses, including disturbing the peace, loitering, and rioting, under the umbrella of disorderly conduct. The following actions are considered crimes in the state of California:

  • Engaging in “disorderly conduct” per Penal Code 647
  • Disturbing the peace per Penal Code 415
  • Trespass per Penal Code 602
  • Rioting per Penal Code 404
  • Failing to disperse per Penal Code 416

Examples of Disorderly Conduct

From paying a prostitute for “services” to inciting a fight at a concert, the examples of disorderly conduct are many. Other examples include:

  • John paying a prostitute for “services.”
  • Jerome challenging someone to a fight during a local concert.
  • Lila cutting down her neighbor’s trees without permission.

Defenses Against Disorderly Conduct

If you are accused of disorderly conduct, there are several legal defenses available to you. You can argue that:

  • You did not commit a prohibited act
  • You were falsely accused
  • You were arrested without probable cause

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Typically, a violation of these laws is charged as a misdemeanor and is punishable by:

  • A county jail sentence for up to one year
  • A maximum fine of $1,000

Disorderly Conduct Under California Penal Code 647

Penal Code 647 is the California law that criminalizes “disorderly conduct.” A person can be found guilty of this crime if they engage in any of the following activities:

  • Soliciting or engaging in prostitution
  • Begging for or soliciting food or money in public
  • Being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol in public
  • Wandering or loitering on private property without permission or reason to do so
  • Invading someone’s privacy by recording or “peeping” for sexual arousal

Disorderly conduct is charged as a misdemeanor and is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of $1,000. Some courts may offer community service as an alternative for those unable to pay the fine.

Disturbing the Peace Under California Penal Code 415

Penal Code 415 makes it a crime for a person to “disturb the peace.” This includes fighting or challenging someone to a fight in a public place, making unreasonable noise, or using offensive words likely to provoke violence in a public place.

Exploring California’s Disorderly Conduct Laws

PC 404 – Rioting: What You Need to Know

In California, it is illegal to use or threaten to use force or violence in a public place, which includes rioting. Rioting is considered a form of disorderly conduct and is punishable under Penal Code 404 as a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face up to one year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

PC 416 – Failing to Disperse: Understanding the Law

Penal Code 416 makes it a crime for two or more people to disturb the peace and refuse to disperse when ordered to do so by law enforcement personnel. However, this law only applies to unlawful assembly and not assembly itself, as freedom of assembly is a Constitutional right. Violating PC 416 is charged as a misdemeanor and can result in imprisonment in county jail for up to six months and/or restitution for any damages caused.

If you are accused of violating a disorderly conduct law in California, there are legal defenses you can raise to challenge the accusation. Three common defenses include no prohibited act, falsely accused, and no probable cause.

No Prohibited Act

California’s disorderly conduct laws prohibit specific acts, such as soliciting a prostitute, playing loud music in public, trespassing, or other dissolute conduct. To use the defense of no prohibited act, the defendant must show that their conduct did not violate any of these laws by highlighting specific facts from their case.

Falsely Accused

False accusations are unfortunately common and can stem from jealousy, revenge, or anger. If you have been falsely accused of violating a disorderly conduct law, you can use this as a valid defense.

No Probable Cause

Under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution, police officers must have probable cause before detaining or arresting a suspect. If you were stopped or arrested without probable cause for violating a disorderly conduct law, any evidence obtained from that stop or arrest could be excluded from the case, potentially leading to the dismissal of charges.

If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime under PCs 647, 415, 602, 404, or 416, our criminal defense lawyers offer free consultations. Contact our law firm for legal advice and to discuss creating an attorney-client relationship. With offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County, and throughout California, we are here to help.

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