Pennsylvania Disorderly Conduct Laws

Overview of Pennsylvania Disorderly Conduct Laws

In Pennsylvania it is a crime to intentionally cause or recklessly create a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm by doing any of the following:

  • Engaging in fighting, threatening or violent behavior;
  • Making unreasonable noise;
  • Using obscene language or gestures; or
  • Creating a physically hazardous condition that serves no legitimate purpose.

Basically this statute prohibits any type of action that disturbs the peace of others in public. In turn, law enforcement can detain individuals for disruptive behavior. The charge may be applied to a variety of situations, such loud parties, bar fights, or even some peaceful protests. Sometimes this charge is paired with other offenses, such as an assault or battery charge during a fight, which can lead to more serious consequences for the alleged offender.

Penalties and Sentences

Generally, disorderly conduct is charged as a summary offense in Pennsylvania. This is a less serious charge than a felony or misdemeanor. It is not actually a criminal conviction. However, it will show up on criminal record history checks and for that reason, should be taken very seriously. A summary offense may receive a sentence of up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of anywhere between $25 and $1,500 depending on the degree or severity of the summary offense.

Can Disorderly Conduct Be Charged as a Misdemeanor?

This crime may be charged as a third degree misdemeanor if the defendant intended to cause serious inconvenience or substantial harm, or if he/she persisted with the disorderly conduct after being asked to stop. A third degree misdemeanor in Pennsylvania may receive a sentence of up to one year in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

Below you will find more specific information about disorderly conduct laws in Pennsylvania.

Code Section

18 Pa. Cons. Stat. sections 5501 et. seq

Defenses

Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges

There are several possible defenses to the crime of disorderly conduct. Here's a list of some of the possible defenses:

  • Lack of intent;
  • Lack of knowledge that the defendant's conduct was causing unfavorable conditions;
  • Self-defense (i.e. defending yourself against another's fighting or threatening behavior);
  • Intoxication;
  • Age (Minors may receive lighter penalties than adults);
  • Provocation for disorderly conduct;
  • The defendant did not commit the conduct.

Penalties

See Above

Possible Misdemeanor?

Yes, see above

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

Pennsylvania Criminal Laws Related Resources:

Next Steps: A Free Case Review

While disorderly conduct isn't a capital offense, it can still impact your future and have criminal consequences such as jail time and probation. Don't go into court without legal representation on your side. Start by getting a free case review from a criminal defense attorney today.

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