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New York Disorderly Conduct Laws

Overview of New York Disorderly Conduct Laws

A variety of conduct may qualify as disorderly under New York criminal law, especially when actions are taken with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Similarly, when a person recklessly creates a risk of such harm to the public, he or she may also have run afoul of the law. A person acts "recklessly" when he or she is aware of, and consciously disregards, a "substantial and unjustifiable risk" that public harm will result from his or her actions.

The New York Penal Code prohibits the following forms of disorderly conduct: fighting or engaging in violent or threatening behavior; making "unreasonable noise"; using obscene language or making obscene gestures in public places; disturbing any lawful assembly or gathering without lawful authority; obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic; congregating with others in a public place and refusing to comply with lawful dispersal orders; and creating "hazardous or physically offensive" conditions by an act serving no legitimate purpose.

When determining the nature of an accused person's conduct, courts consider the extent to which the person's conduct annoyed others; whether his or her conduct persisted after warnings by others or police; and whether the conduct occurred in a public place.

Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges

  • Infancy (persons less than 16 years old are not held criminally responsible for disorderly conduct)
  • Justification (conduct is required or authorized by law or necessary to avoid imminent injury to the public or private persons)
  • Duress
  • Mental disease or defect
  • NOTE:  The rights to free speech and assembly are NOT a defense.

Penalties and Sentences

Engaging in disorderly conduct is a violation of New York Law. Courts may sentence a person convicted of the offense to imprisonment of no more than 15 days or a fine no greater than $250. In cases where the guilty person gained money or property as a result of the disorderly conduct, the court may, in the alternative, impose a fine not to exceed double the value of the guilty person's gain.

New York Disorderly Conduct Statute

Offenses Against Public Order
Penal Code Section 240.20

Note: State laws are constantly changing - please contact a New York attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.  

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