Disorderly conduct is one of the most common charges brought in Maryland. Police find a variety of reasons to bring these charges. Although the offense is a misdemeanor, this crime can land you in prison. You should consider the potential consequences when you ask ‘Do I need a criminal defense lawyer for disorderly conduct charges?’
Disorderly conduct in Maryland is a ‘catch-all’ offense. This means the police can bring the charge for many forms of alleged breaches of the peace. The police often overreact and wrongly charge you with disorderly conduct. They may target minorities. You might not realize the officer who arrested you was out of line until you hire a Baltimore disorderly conduct lawyer.
What is Maryland’s Definition of Disorderly Conduct?
Under Title 10 of the Maryland code, disorderly conduct is defined as a crime against public health, public conduct, and sensibilities. It’s a vague definition so it’s hardly surprising that the police often appear to be confused about it too. When in doubt, they err on the side of making an arrest.
Types of Disorderly Conduct Charges in Maryland
Criminal defense lawyers deal regularly with these offenses. Your attorney will be able to tell you immediately if a police officer abused his or her power. While making loud noises in public is often a cause for a disorderly conduct arrest, we have seen police officers arresting people for being a little bit loud on some occasions.
Police can bring disorderly conduct charges for the following acts. However, this is not a definitive list and there is plenty of scope for officers to overreact. When a police officer has been overzealous, we will dispute the charges. Disorderly conduct in Maryland includes:
- Arguments in public
- Brawls in bars
- People shouting in the street
- Drunken and unruly behavior
- Refusing to obey a police officer
- Obstructing other people in public places like railroad stations, shopping centers, and movie theaters
- Throwing objects at a sporting event
- Being offensive in public
- Pushing your way through a crowd
Some cities have local ordinances specify additional grounds. For example, it’s a disorderly conduct offense to start a bonfire in Worcester County between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. Police officers often get stressed out at football games, demonstrations, and other situations with large crowds. They charge large numbers of people with disorderly conduct. Many bystanders were hit with disorderly conduct charges during the Baltimore riots of 2015. A Guardian reporter wrote about how he was arrested and placed in a squalid cell for doing his job.
In May 2019, six young people were arrested for disorderly conduct and destruction of property during disturbances at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.
Failure to Obey a Reasonable and Lawful Order
You can be arrested for failing to obey a police order in Maryland. However, that order must be reasonable and lawful. It must be given to prevent a disturbance of the peace in public. For example, if a police officer tells you to turn down a loud stereo in the street, that’s a reasonable and lawful order. If you are speaking at a rally and the officer tells you to stop, this may not be a reasonable and lawful order.
Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the peace, which is sometimes referred to as a breach of the peace, is making loud sounds that disturb other people. It can include acting in a disorderly way or making a loud noise that disturbs people. Police often make very subjective calls about what disturbing the peace means.
Hindering or Obstructing Passage
Hindering the passage of another person in a public place in Baltimore, Dundalk, Towson or elsewhere in Maryland can mean blocking a passage at a shopping mall, a school, on a subway, on an airplane or a boat. It includes almost any place other than a private residence. These kinds of charges are often brought at chaotic sporting games. The person who is accused of blocking another’s passage may not even be aware he or she is in the way.
Can I Go to Jail for Disorderly Conduct in Maryland?
Unfortunately, you may be put in a police cell following an arrest for disorderly conduct in Maryland. People who are charged with the offense routinely face prison time. Disorderly conduct carried a potential sentence of 60 days and a fine of up to $500, or both.
It’s important to avoid incarceration if at all possible. This is an important reason why you may need a criminal defense lawyer for disorderly conduct charges.
Can Public Protects Spark Disorderly Conduct Charges?
Yes. If protestors block the free passage of other people or even if speakers are too loud and the event leads to complaints from neighbors, disorderly conduct charges may be brought in Maryland.
Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer for Disorderly Conduct Charges in Maryland
Disorderly conduct is not a straightforward crime like murder or larceny. In both cases, it’s usually clear that an offense was committed. Somebody died or items were stolen. Disorderly conduct requires a lot of discretion on behalf of a police officer or another law enforcement official. Often police make the wrong call, particularly in stressful situations like crowd disturbances.
Although police often make mistakes, they may also target certain people. If they can’t charge you with anything else, they are likely to bring a disorderly conduct charge. Surveys have pointed to the fact African Americans are more likely to be charged with disorderly conduct than other races. Recently, the Baltimore Sun reported police in the city have arrested thousands of poor black people for disorderly conduct.
A Maryland criminal defense attorney will assess your case. The attorney will be able to tell if the police officer stretched the application of the law and can mount a strong challenge. Disorderly conduct is a more serious offense than many people believe. Please call Rice, Murtha & Psoras as soon as possible after your arrest at (410) 894-7291 for a free consultation.