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Disorderly conduct or just a harmless, good time?

You are watching the big game, having some beers with your friends, and then a fight breaks out. Or you were just horsing around with the guys and someone calls the cops. Suddenly you are facing a disorderly conduct charge, but is it fair?

There are ways to defend yourself against a disorderly conduct charge. It helps when you know what is and what isn't disorderly conduct. When you argue your case in court, you will get a chance to tell your side of the story, and you can defend against trivial charges that can put an unsightly mark on your criminal record.

What is disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct charges generally result when you do something that annoys the public. Yelling loudly at night in a residential neighborhood, peeing in public, and fighting and playing your music too loud at night are just a few examples. Generally, the activity negatively affects the public in some way.

Of course, the specific guidelines for disorderly conduct vary from state to state, but in every state, including Michigan, they will always require a finding of criminal intent. Sometimes disorderly conduct charges are lumped in with charges such as disturbing the peace, public intoxication and public nuisance.

What isn't disorderly conduct?

Not every action that is annoying to the public involves criminal intent. And sometimes, you may have been caught up in an event that wasn't your fault. There are a few times when you could be facing charges for disorderly conduct, but you have not committed a crime. The following are two examples of these instances:

  • Horseplay -- Horseplay is not disorderly conduct. If you and your friends are loudly roughhousing on a street corner, you are not necessarily committing disorderly conduct, especially if there was no warning, if you did not know that the behavior was imposing on someone else or if you have not caused any harm to humans or property during your horseplay.
  • Self-defense -- Self-defense also does not qualify for disorderly conduct. Often, when authorities come upon a fight in progress, it is hard to sort out exactly who is the responsible party, so everyone ends up receiving charges for disorderly conduct. But if you are simply defending yourself in an unprovoked attack, you are not guilty of any crime.

What can you do once you've been charged?

If you are facing charges for disorderly conduct, you have options to fight them, especially if you feel that your actions do not meet the criteria for breaking the law. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you determine whether you have been incorrectly charged and can create the best possible defense strategy for your specific circumstances.

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