Were you blindsided by a disorderly conduct charge over New Year’s? If you’re like a lot of people, you might be confused about how you got here and what happens next.
Below, we’re going to do our best to provide you with some helpful answers. Read on to learn about Colorado disorderly conduct law, the court process, and what defenses you might be able to use to fight your charges.
Disorderly Conduct in Colorado
Each state has disorderly conduct laws (or something similar) that generally apply to disruptions of public peace. You may not have even realized that your behavior qualified as disorderly conduct under the law.
The Colorado statutes classify several different offenses as disorderly conduct. In our state, a charge can apply to the following situations:
- Public gestures, utterances, or displays that are considered obviously offensive and coarse. These behaviors may immediately breach the peace.
- Unreasonable noises in public spaces, or in unauthorized spaces near private residences.
- Brawling or fighting in public places.
- Discharging firearms in public places. Provisions apply if the individual is a peace officer, if the firearm was issued in lawful hunting or target practice, or if the issuance was related to a veteran’s funeral.
- Displaying a deadly weapon, whether real or representative. Any verbal or other utterances, intended to create alarm in a public place, regarding being armed with a deadly weapon, are also offenses.
Here are some specific examples that may have gotten you in trouble this New Year:
- Yelling in a residential area at night
- Cursing loudly in a public place
- Urinating in public
- Driving donuts in a parking lot
- Punching the air while you walk through a crowd
- Playing loud music from your vehicle
Penalties for Colorado Disorderly Conduct
A charge of disorderly conduct may result in a misdemeanor conviction. If so, you can get hit with up to a year in jail and be required to pay up to $1,000 in fines.
Slightly different penalties apply to different variations of the law. Here are some examples:
- If you make unreasonable noise or offensive utterances, you will face a class 1 petty offense. The penalties are up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000. If the behavior disrupted a funeral, the charge can be raised to a class 2 misdemeanor. The same is true for repeat offenses.
- If you are charged with fighting, you could face up to six months in jail and a $50 fine for a class 3 misdemeanor charge.
- Unlawfully firing a firearm or displaying a deadly weapon qualify as a class 2 misdemeanor of up to one year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Disorderly Conduct: The Court Process
You case may be charged in either municipal (city) or county court.
All offenses prosecuted in municipal court can be punished with up to one year in county jail, and thus need to be taken seriously.
If your case is tried in the county court system, it will be defined as a class 1 petty offense, a class 2 misdemeanor, or a class 3 misdemeanor.
Possible Defenses to Colorado Disorderly Conduct Charges
Your charge of disorderly conduct may be paired with another like a traffic offense, property damage, assault, or DWI, but you cannot be convicted unless you displayed intent to cause offense or harm, or if you recklessly disregarded the public interest.
Intent can be difficult to prove in a disorderly conduct case, unless the public was reasonably warned or the behavior was expressly known to be offensive. A skilled Colorado criminal attorney can advise you on whether trying to argue against intent is a wise move in your case. Here are some other defenses that may apply to your situation:
- Sometimes, the police arrest multiple people on the scene because they can’t tell who started the fight. If you have been charged with fighting, you can claim self defense if you can prove that you were being threatened.
- If you were charged for engaging in public arguments or making loud noise, you may be able to use the defense of freedom of speech.
- If the behavior for which you are charged occurred on private property, you cannot be charged for disorderly conduct, which applies only to situations that disrupt public peace.
- If the prosecution does not have enough evidence to support the charges against you, your case may be dropped.
A conviction for disorderly conduct can have far-reaching consequences. You may be incarcerated and heavily fined. You may be required to serve a lengthy probation. A conviction could make it harder for you to secure a job, loans, or housing.
To have the best chance of beating your charges, the best thing you can do is to schedule a free consultation today with an experienced lawyer.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.