Citations for “disorderly conduct” are pretty common in New York, especially in New York City.  The summons is used as a sort of “catch-all” for things you do that don’t rise to the level of a crime but are considered a violation nonetheless. Our domestic violence attorneys review what constitutes a disorderly conduct charge, and what you should do if you have been charged with being “disorderly.”

What does Disorderly Conduct Mean?

Disorderly conduct has a pretty broad spectrum. These violations can include:

  • Fighting
  • Noise Complaints
  • Obscene or Abusive Language
  • Disturbance at a Lawful Assembly
  • Blocking Traffic…Either Vehicular or Pedestrian
  • Failure to Disperse
  • Creating a “hazardous condition.”

So, as you see, there is a lot of room for interpretation in these cases.

Is Disorderly Conduct a Crime in New York?

Disorderly conduct is not a misdemeanor; it is simply a “violation.” Only felonies or misdemeanors are “crimes.” You should, however, take a disorderly conduct summons seriously. It can result in up to 15 days in jail, and some employment applications will ask about it. Avoid the stigma, jail time, and economic consequences by dealing with it accordingly.

What Should I Do If I Have Been Issued a Summons for Disorderly Conduct?

Don’t ignore it, thinking it will go away. The fastest and most efficient way of dealing with it is to contact an attorney that specializes in disorderly conduct cases. Lawyers are so familiar with these disorderly conduct cases, that their first plan of attack will be to have it dismissed. They will know their way around this type of summons, and the corresponding penal laws and statutes that apply.

What Will the Judge Be Looking for in the Case?

The main concern of the Judge will be the facts of the case, as outlined in the “fact” section of the summons. Your lawyer will be very familiar with the contents of the “fact” section, and will first try to get the case dropped because of “facial insufficiency” or because the facts do not warrant the summons.

If that strategy is not successful, your attorney will be prepared to argue mitigating circumstances as to why the case should be dismissed. They may argue that this infraction is actually based on innocent behavior. It’s possible that your background or work history may be used to form this argument.

Lean on Your Attorney’s Experience

Yes, you can lead your own defense against a disorderly conduct charge, but you run a real risk. Although the penalty cannot exceed more than 15 days in jail, do you want to risk that? Are you as familiar with the ins and outs of the laws and statutes surrounding disorderly conduct charges as your attorney will be? Are you prepared to argue the mitigating circumstances on your own?

The Truth About Disorderly Conduct Summons

Even though they are not a crime, your life can be upended on a disorderly conduct charge. You will have to take time to go to court, or even jail if that’s what the Judge decides. You can argue that the charge is too broad or not serious enough to warrant this action. But, the truth is, this can bring unwanted stress to your life. If you receive a summons, handle it quickly with the help of a domestic violence attorney and move on!

By: Kimberly Pelesz

Family law and criminal defense attorney Kimberly A. Pelesz received a B.S. degree magna cum laude and an M.P.A. degree summa cum laude from Binghamton University. She earned her J.D. from Pace University School of Law in White Plains, where she was selected for Phi Alpha Delta. Her charitable activities include work with My Sisters’ Place in White Plains and the Westchester County District Attorney’s Humane Education Taskforce.

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