Disorderly Conduct Law in Arizona
Also referred to as disturbing the peace, Arizona’s disorderly conduct statute has become a catch-all offense for police to charge people with unruly or disruptive behavior. Unfortunately, when police think that conduct is loud, rude, or impolite, they’ll charge disorderly conduct to make an arrest. Arizona’s disorderly conduct statute is far too often used to improperly arrest Defendants.
What conduct does Arizona’s disorderly conduct statute prohibit?
ARS 13-2904 outlaws the following types of conduct:
- Engage in fight, violence, or (seriously) disruptive behavior.
- Make unreasonable noise.
- Use abusive or offensive language or gestures in a manner that’s likely to provoke an immediate physical retaliation.
- Make protracted commotion, utterance or display with the intent to prevent transaction of the business of a lawful, meeting, gather or procession.
- Refuse to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, a hazard or any other emergency.
- Recklessly handle, display, or discharge a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Arizona:
- Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct: Unless the charge involves a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, disorderly conduct is a class 1 misdemeanor. A class 1 misdemeanor carries up to 6 months jail, $3600 in fines and surcharges, and up to 3 years probation. If convicted of domestic violence disorderly conduct, the Defendant will lose the right to own or possess firearms, and must complete at least 26 weeks of the State’s mandated domestic violence program.
- Felony Disorderly Conduct: When charged with disorderly conduct involving a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, it’s a class 6 felony.
Felony convictions include more severe punishments, including prison, higher fines, and harsher probation. A Defendant faces up to two years in prison if the felony disorderly conduct is charged as a non-dangerous offense. However, often times, felony disorderly conduct is charged with an allegation of dangerousness because a deadly or dangerous instrument was used. Probation is not available when convicted of a dangerous offense. For a first offense of dangerous disorderly conduct, a Defendant faces between 1.5 and 3 years prison. If a Defendant has a felony record, that Defendant faces as much as 6 years in prison. A felony conviction also results in the loss of civil rights and gun rights. Felony conviction severely impacts employment, finances, civil rights, and future opportunities.
Common Defenses to Disorderly Conduct:
- Defendant didn’t have the required state of mind. One must intend to disturb the peace, or know that the conduct was disturbing the peace. If it was simply a reasonable mistake or accident, it’s not criminal. If the defendant is charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing the peace of a neighborhood, the defendant’s conduct may be measured against an objective standard, and the state doesn’t need to prove a particular person was disturbed. It’s enough if the Defendant, at least, should have known that the conduct would have disturbed the peace of people in the neighborhood.
If instead, a defendant is charged with disorderly conduct for disturbing the peace of a particular person, the state MUST prove that the defendant knowingly disturbed that victim’s peace, or that the defendant intended to disturb that victim’s peace. The statute defining disorderly conduct doesn’t require that one actually disturb the peace of another through certain acts. Rather, the statute requires the commission of certain acts with intent to disturb the peace, or with knowledge of doing so.
- There was no criminal act. Arizona law is clear that the disorderly conduct statute is not unconstitutionally broad or ambiguous; however, the statute’s broad language often helps a Defendant. This is because your Mesa criminal defense lawyer can point out the shortcomings of the alleged conduct as it compares to previous Arizona court decisions interpreting disorderly conduct. There’s a difference between merely rude or offensive behavior and criminal conduct. Arizona criminalizes behavior, under the disorderly conduct statute, only when it involves fighting, violence, or seriously disruptive behavior. Seriously disruptive behavior is of the same general nature as fighting or violence, or conduct liable to provoke that response in others. The disruption must be serious—something that causes considerable distress, anxiety, or inconvenience. For example, yelling profanities while kicking a chair is not disorderly conduct. Arizona Courts won’t stretch the statute to punish behavioral problems that don’t injure or threaten anyone. Arizona laws don’t make criminals out of people just because they act offensively or rudely or lack respect or control. The alleged victim must feel threatened or provoked to physically retaliate, or feel the need to protect oneself. Example: In Re Louise C., 197 Ariz. (1999), shouting fuck you and slamming a door is neither fighting words, nor seriously disruptive heavier, and as such, not disorderly conduct. The Court compared the conduct to a case in Georgia where a Defendant shouted obscenities while slapping the victim. The Court explained that shouting obscenities combined with assaultive behavior would constitute disorderly conduct. Shouting obscenities without assaultive behavior is not seriously disruptive. Example: In re Nickolas S., 226 Ariz. (2011), Defendant insulted victim by calling her a “fucking bitch”; he repeated this insult and also shouted “stupid bitch” while leaving the room, and he then again shouted “fucking bitch” in the hallway. The Court did not find these insults would have likely provoked an ordinary “victim” to react violently. Example: In re Louise C., 197 Ariz. (App. 1999), Defendant said, “Fuck this. I don’t have to take this shit.” Defendant stood up and walked towards the door. Defendant then said, “Fuck you. I don’t have to do what you tell me,” and she opened the door and left the office, slamming the door behind her. Despite the victims saying they were highly offended, they didn’t want to physically retaliate in any way. As such, the speech and conduct was not fighting words or seriously disruptive behavior.
- 1st Amendment, Free Speech. The right to free speech is protected by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The right to free speech, however, is not absolute. The constitution doesn’t allow fighting words. Fighting words that inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace are not afforded constitutional protection. Fighting words are those words that are inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction when addressed to the ordinary citizen. Offensive language is not disorderly conduct unless it amounts to fighting words.
- Self-Defense under A.R.S. 13-404. A person is justified in threatening or using physical force against another when a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force. The force used in self-defense must be proportional to the aggressor’s use of force. The threat or use of physical force against another is not justified in response to verbal provocation only. It is also not justified if the person provoked the other’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force.
- Defense of others. A person is justified in threatening or using physical force to defend another person if that other person would also be justified in defending himself under A.R.S. 13-404.
- Defensive display of a firearm. The defensive display of a gun is justified to the extent a reasonable person would believe that physical force is immediately necessary to protect himself against the use or attempted use of unlawful physical force. This includes verbally informing another person that the person has a firearm; exposing or displaying a firearm in a manner that a reasonable person would understand was meant to protect the person against another’s use or attempted use of unlawful physical force; and, placing the person’s hand on a firearm while the firearm is contained in a pocket, purse or other means of containment or transport. Defensive display of a firearm doesn’t apply to a Defendant who initiated the altercation.
- Constitutional Violations: Lack of warrant, lack of probable cause, lack of reasonable suspicion, Miranda violations, and denial of the right to counsel can sometimes be raised in disorderly conduct cases.
Tobin Law Office provides the following benefits when defending against disorderly conduct charge:
- Transparent Flat Fees and Payment Plans: Tobin Law Office defends against disorderly conduct charges at an affordable flat rate. The cost is known up front with no hidden fees or costs.
- Former Prosecutor: Mr. Tobin is a former prosecutor of two prosecuting agencies. In both positions, he prosecuted disorderly conduct cases.
- Personal Attention and Excellent Communication: Attorney Timothy Tobin handles disorderly conduct cases from start to finish. Clients don’t need to go through secretaries or paralegals. All clients have Mr. Tobin’s direct cell phone and email.
- Free Disorderly Conduct Case Evaluations: Reach out to us and you’ll be put in direct contact with Mr. Tobin to discuss your disorderly conduct charges from top to bottom.
Tobin Law Office Can Do the Following, and More, in Disorderly Conduct Defense:
- Attend court on your behalf so you won’t have to take time from work or family.
- File a motions to change Defendant’s current release conditions
- Raise and implement defenses.
- File constitutional motions.
- Negotiate with the prosecutor for a dismissal or reduction in charges.
- Negotiation for a dismissal of the dangerousness or domestic violence allegations.
- Protect gun rights.
- Interview officers and witnesses.
- Investigate the facts and circumstances of the charge.
- And if necessary, fight the charges at trial.
Contact Tobin Law Office for a Free Consultation.
Tobin Law Office
1910 S. Stapley Dr.
Mesa, AZ 85204