Being too loud, rude and rowdy with other people at a city park. Becoming overly revved up at an Orioles game and pitching a half-full beer at someone three rows ahead of you.
Using a business’s vestibule to stay warm, then refusing to leave when asked. All of these can lead to a disorderly conduct charge — and a permanent scar on your record.
Here’s what you need to know about disorderly conduct, from Baltimore criminal defense attorney Randolph Rice.
What is disorderly conduct in Maryland?
Is disorderly conduct a misdemeanor or a felony?
Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor in Maryland.
What kinds of actions are considered disorderly conduct in Maryland?
According to state law, disorderly conduct can be defined as:
- Knowingly and purposely standing in the way of people at public place — such as a building, parking lot, church, sidewalk, elevator, hotel, amusement park, theater or school — or on a public bus, airplane, train or school bus.
- Acting in a way that disturbs and disrupts public peace.
- Refusing to obey a reasonable order from a police officer that would prevent a disturbance of the peace.
- Throwing objects onto the field or at spectators at a sports event.
- Making an unreasonably loud noise to disturb someone else in a public place, within a mode of transportation, or in his/her home or land.
- Entering someone’s premises to disturb them, whether by making an unreasonably loud noise or by acting in a disorderly manner.
- Making a bonfire between 1-5 a.m. (only in Worcester County).
How does ‘public peace’ factor into disorderly conduct?
When the law refers to “public peace,” this creates a requirement that someone else is affected, or potentially affected, by someone else’s actions. Other people must be present or at least within hearing range for there to be a violation that disturbs public peace. However, there is no requirement that the person accused of disorderly conduct intended to bother anyone.
Does picketing or protesting fall under disorderly conduct?
Only if it’s meant to disturb someone’s right to peace, harass them or block traffic in and out of their location. This can be at the person’s home, in a public space and, sometimes, the person’s business.
Let’s say, for example, you are part of a pro-life group protesting outside of a women’s health clinic that performs abortions. In the heat of protest, you detain or obstruct a patient’s passage to or from the clinic. You’ve just committed disorderly conduct.
There are some exceptions that wouldn’t fall under disorderly conduct. If there’s a labor strike and workers are picketing in an orderly fashion, it’s not a case of disorderly conduct. The same goes for picketing someone’s home if that house also happens to be a place of business.
I was asked to leave a building, but I hadn’t done anything wrong, so I said no. Is that disorderly conduct?
Yes. If you had no lawful business being at a public building — such as a restaurant, hotel, clothing store, school or sports arena — and you refused to leave when asked, you’re engaging in disorderly conduct.
Is there Maryland case law for which disorderly conduct was under dispute?
Yes. In Diehl v. State, 294 Md. 466 (1982), the Court of Appeals of Maryland determined that a man who was being arrested illegally and uttered an obscenity at the officer did not willfully disturb anyone. The obscenity wasn’t a “loud or unseemly” noise, but rather a clearly communicative speech.
What are the punishments for disorderly conduct?
If you’re found guilty of disorderly conduct, you can be punished by up to 60 days in jail and/or fined up to $500; note, however, that a judge has the discretion to impose any other sentence subject to these limits.
There are other penalties for different kinds of disorderly conduct-related infractions:
- Interfering with access to a medical facility can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
- Interfering with a sporting event is punishable by three months in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.
- Public intoxication nets up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $100.
What else can happen to me if I’m convicted of disorderly conduct?
As if jail time and fines aren’t enough, having a disorderly conduct conviction on your record can negatively impact the rest of your life. Employers typically view these kinds of convictions unfavorably, so your chances of securing gainful employment are lessened. You might not be eligible to earn a particular professional license. Your family life could shatter.
What should I do if I’ve been accused of disorderly conduct in Maryland?
If you’ve been arrested on charges of disorderly conduct and are facing fines or jail time, you need to contact a reputable, experienced defense lawyer who can help explain your options and defend your rights. You need criminal defense attorney Randolph Rice.
Contact us at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a FREE criminal defense consultation. We have years of experience and we can put that knowledge to work in your disorderly conduct case.
Maryland Disorderly Conduct Attorney
What is Disorderly Conduct in Maryland?
In Maryland, disorderly conduct is a crime under title 10 “crimes against public health, conduct and sensibilities”, subtitle 2 “disturbing the peace, disorderly conduct, and related crimes”. Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor offense with the punishment specified in the statute.
When the law refers to “public peace” , this creates a requirement that a third party is affected or potentially affected. Other people must be present or at least within hearing range for there to be a violation which disturbs public peace.
The same is true in section (c)(5) that someone must be within hearing range to commit the offense. However, there is no requirement that the person intended to bother anyone. The fact that there is such an affect is sufficient to convict for disorderly conduct.
What can happen to me if accused of Disorderly Conduct?
The punishment is a prison sentence of up to 60 days and/or a $500 fine. The judge has the discretion to impose any other sentence subject to these limits. Disorderly conduct is classified as a misdemeanor in Maryland.
Don’t Go to Court Alone. A criminal conviction can affect the rest of your life. You could spend years in jail, pay fines, Court costs and regret not having a professional attorney advising you on the best decisions in your criminal case. Contact Attorney Randolph Rice at (410) 694-7291 to schedule a FREE criminal defense consultation. We have years of experience and we can put that knowledge to work in your criminal case.