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Disorderly Conduct Lawyers in Sarasota, Florida  

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If you have found yourself in the predicament of facing charges for disorderly conduct, you may be confused about the entire situation because this is one of the more unclear crimes under the law. On many counts, some crimes that fall under this umbrella of incidences aren’t crimes in general, but are (instead) simple acts of rowdy or belligerent behavior. By consulting an experienced criminal defense lawyer, though, you can untangle this web of confusion and gain resources to help you understand what barriers you will face. 

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct and need assistance for representing your rights in a courtroom, look no further than Musca Law Firm. Get in touch with our office in Sarasota, Florida at (941) 909-3234 to speak with one of our highly-experienced attorneys.  

What Is a “Disorderly Conduct” Crime? 

Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 877.03 defines disorderly conduct as any activity when a person behaves in a rude and/or threatening manner that breaches public peace and disrupts the happiness of people around the culprit. In turn, this quality helps authorities pinpoint a crime of this category. Still, the situation surrounding a disorderly conduct act can be testy. Authorities may struggle to determine if a person is merely “acting out” (by exercising free speech) or actually posing a threat to people. When the wrong decision is made, innocent people can face charges that don’t constitute substantial evidence. 

Here is a closer look at some examples of disorderly conduct (from a generalized view): 

  • Acts that corrupt the morality of the public
  • Acts that anger the public or upset a sense of decency 
  • Acts that impact witnesses’ peace and quiet 
  • Brawls, fights, attacks in public 
  • Public intoxication 

Based on these criteria, simply seeking information from a police officer or speaking your mind can result in a situation where you are criminally charged for disorderly conduct. In many cases, people can use this information to wield negative authority over you, such as a case where you are charged with disorderly conduct against law enforcement. 

Public Intoxication Is a Form of Disorderly Conduct 

Florida State Law declares that any act of public intoxication (also called disorderly intoxication) is a form of disorderly conduct, as the drunken activity of the responsible parties can disrupt the peace of onlookers. Even if this incident occurs at a bar or a pub (or any location that is registered to serve alcohol), culprits can still face criminal charges. (One example would be an outburst or a brawl at a football game or other sporting event.)

Under Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 856.11, no one may (at any time) drink a dangerously large quantity of alcohol, become drunk, and endanger the lives of people in public. Any person who commits this crime will face charges of a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a 60-day prison sentence and a $500 fine. 

As indicated earlier, any attempt to resist a routine arrest conducted by a member of any division of Florida law enforcement (and additional acts of physical or verbal abuse) are also considered forms of disorderly conduct. Under Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 784.07(b), any person who verbally abuses or physically assaults police officers will face charges of a 1st-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a 1-year prison term and a $1,000 fine. 

As outlined in Chapter 784.07, the following individuals constitute members of law enforcement in the State of Florida. Here is a closer look:  

  • Emergency medical care providers are people who operate an ambulance or provide medical care (for example, a nurse or an EMT). Depending on variable circumstances, doctors, hospital employees, agents, or volunteers may also fall into this category.  
  • Firefighters are responsible for putting out fires and rescuing people from these emergency situations. 
  • Law enforcement officers are a variety of people who work in different departments including law enforcement, corrections, correctional probation, and auxiliary corrections. 
  • Public transit employees are authorized to operate buses or trains, collectors of revenue, members of security, and people who are trained to maintain equipment. This category may also include transit agents.  

What Is the Punishment for Disorderly Conduct in Florida? 

Any person who breaches the peace (commits an act of disorderly conduct), subsequently degrades public morals, outrages the public, or shows complete disregard for public peace (through brawls and fights, for example) will face charges of a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a 60-day prison sentence and a $500 fine. 

On a similar note, Florida Statute Chapter 856.011 states that anyone who is intoxicated and subsequently disrupts the peace and morals of the public (due to a breach of the peace and/or participating in fights spawned by this intoxication) will face charges of a 2nd-degree misdemeanor (please review the aforementioned charges). 

Reaching a Verdict for a Disorderly Conduct Case in Florida 

Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 877.03 and Criminal Jury Case 29.5 dictate that members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:  

  • Has completed an act that demonstrates a disregard for the public’s morality. 
  • Irritated or insulted the decency of the public.
  • Disrupted the tranquility of the people who witnessed one of these events.
  • Took part in a brawl or a fight of any sort. 

Under these circumstances, disorderly conduct also refers to a breach of the peace, in any way.

Reaching a Verdict for Disorderly Intoxication Cases in Florida 

Florida Statute Title XLVI Chapter 856.011 and Criminal Jury Case 29.1 dictate that members of the court must prove (without any shred of doubt) that the defendant:  

  • Had been intoxicated when the incident took place. 
  • Put another person’s life at risk or endangered a person’s property. 
  • Had been intoxicated and/or consuming alcohol in a public setting. 
  • Disrupted the peace and quiet of the witnesses. 

In keeping with Case 29.1, defendants cannot use their admission of being intoxicated as a means of defending their cases in a courtroom, but members of the court will regard this admission as a valuable piece of evidence. No additional offenses have been categorized under the same section as public intoxication. 

Understanding the Terms in Case 29.1 (Disorderly Intoxication) 

After reviewing court cases covering the issues of disorderly conduct and intoxication, here is a closer look at terminology from Case 29.1 for a case of disorderly intoxication (on similar grounds as a breach of the peace): 

  • Intoxication: a situation where the defendant has consumed so much alcohol that he/she has completely lost control over his/her abilities and logic 
  • Public place: a location which the public has the right to visit   

Creating a Defense against Disorderly Conduct Charges 

Defendants may present the case that they had not started a fight with another individual (associated with the act of disorderly conduct) and (instead) was merely acting out of self-defense. Although the court may recognize this assertion as a strong piece of evidence, you must understand that this defense might not hold value if the culprit had definitely started the fight. If the defendant can prove (without any doubt) that he/she only attacked another person to defend himself/herself, he/she will not be charged for a crime of disorderly conduct. 

For references about acts of self-defense categorized as disorderly conduct, see the following cases:

  • Self-defense: S.D.G. v. State, 919 So. 2d 704, 705 (Florida 5th DCA 2006)
  • Defendant triggers fight: D.M.L. v. State, 773 So.2d 1216, 1217 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000) 

Defending Your Right to Free Speech in a Disorderly Conduct Case 

As shown in Criminal Jury Case 29.5, the statute covering cases of disorderly conduct may raise some concerns in a criminal court. If the defendant explains that the alleged criminal activity was an exercise of free speech (defended by the national constitution), members of the court will take special actions to ensure this person is not convicted. Please review Chandler v. State, 744 So. 2d 1058 (Florida 4th DCA, 1999) for more details about this issue. 

In a case involving an incident of verbal abuse, however, the situation can become a bit tricky. Article I Section 4 of the Florida State Constitution dictates that Floridians (and all U.S. citizens) have the right to free speech:  

  • No existing laws will prevent people from exercising the liberty of free speech. 
  • An exercise of free speech can be used as viable evidence in court. 
  • Defendants will not face charges if the court determines an exercise of free speech. 

Nevertheless, consider that Floridians (U.S. citizens, in turn) must be prepared to suffer the consequences of speaking freely, despite the protection of the law. Unless the incident in question involves physical harm, people cannot be punished for disorderly conduct if they are swearing or yelling at someone in a public place. Witnessing someone behaving rudely (in the aforementioned manner) also doesn’t garner an arrest. 

For further analysis regarding disruption of peace triggered by cursing and delinquent behavior, take a look at the following cases: 

  • C.P. vs. State 644 So. 2d 600 (Florida 2nd DCA, 1994)
  • K.Y.E vs. State 557 So.2d 956 (Florida 1st DCA, 1990)
  • K.S. vs. State 697 So. 2d 1275 (Florida 3rd DCA, 1997) 

Taking a Closer Look at the Penalties for Disorderly Conduct 

As dictated by Florida Statute Title XLVI 775.083, any person who is found guilty of committing a 2nd-degree misdemeanor may potentially pay a fine that is increased to two-times the pecuniary gains awarded to the victims. The same charges are relevant for men and women who have been arrested for public intoxication (a form of disorderly conduct). 

Individuals who are charged with abusing law enforcement will potentially pay a fine of $10,000.

Resources for Reviewing Previous Disorderly Conduct Cases in the State of Florida 

Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, § 877.03 – Review the full statute for disorderly conduct in Florida. 

Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, §856.011 – Review the details of the full statute for disorderly intoxication (public intoxication) in the State of Florida. 

Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, §775.083 – Review the fines set by the State of Florida for misdemeanors and additional charges. Pay close attention to the section highlighting charges for 2nd-degree misdemeanors.  

Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, §784.07 – Review charges for the verbal abuse or battery of a law enforcement officer on the grounds of disorderly conduct.  

Florida Statutes, Chapter XLVI, §775.082 – Here is the full list of general penalties and steps for the registration of criminals arrested in the State of Florida. As with the previous entry, pay close attention to the section concerning punishment for 2nd-degree misdemeanors.   

Cases 29.1 and 29.5 for Criminal Jury – Take a closer look at this link to read over the specifications set out for juries covering cases of disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication. Be sure to click on the available links for Cases 29.1 and 29.5 to review the responsibilities of the jury members and any grounds for defending your situation (including your constitutional right of free speech). Recall the differences between disorderly conduct and intoxication crimes. 

Constitution of the State of Florida – For a detailed look at your rights as a resident of the State of Florida and (ultimately) your right to defend a situation involving disorderly conduct or intoxication, review the official constitution of the State of Florida. Freedom of speech will serve as a valid defense. 

Don’t Wait! Call Musca Law in Sarasota for Your Legal Defense Today! 

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, you could potentially face punishment ranging from a 1st-degree to a 2nd-degree misdemeanor, resulting in jail time of 60 days to 1 year and a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000 (which may be higher, depending on the severity of the crime). Here at Musca Law, our defense team is experienced with criminal cases involving disorderly conduct and intoxication in the state of Florida and the city of Sarasota. If you or a loved one face such charges, you need the assistance of a professional defense attorney to help you protect your right to free speech. 

Don’t hesitate to contact our Sarasota office today at (941) 909-3234 to schedule an initial case consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys.

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