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Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is a summary violation of section 5503(a)(4) of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code (Code). 18 Pa.C.S. § 5503(a)(4). The term disorderly conduct is defined broadly and often includes conduct resulting from public intoxication, a fight or threats to inflict bodily harm on another person.

Philadelphia Disorderly Conduct Lawyer

If you were arrested for or charged with disorderly conduct or the related offenses of public drunkenness, underaged drinking or possession of alcohol, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC.

Our attorneys represent clients on a variety of misdemeanor and felony offenses throughout Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as well as Bucks County, Chester County, Montgomery County and Delaware County. Call (215) 665-1695 today for a free consultation to discuss your case.


Overview of Disorderly Conduct in Pennsylvania


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History of Pennsylvania's Disorderly Conduct Statute

The crime of disorderly conduct is set out in 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5503 of Chapter 55 for "Riot, Disorderly Conduct and Related Offenses" in Article F for "Offenses Against Public Order and Decency." Pennsylvania's disorderly conduct statute became effective June 6, 1973.

The statute originally derived from Section 250.2 of the Model Penal Code. Other statutes prohibit the crime of disorderly conduct if it is committed in certain specified places such as a railroad car as provided in Section 406 (18 P.S. § 4406).


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Required Elements of the Disorderly Conduct Statute

Section 5503(a) of Pennsylvania Statutes define disorderly conduct as acting with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof while:

  1. engaging in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
  2. making unreasonable noise;
  3. using obscene language or making an obscene gesture; or
  4. creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.

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Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Under Section 5503(b) the grading of the offense depends on certain additional factors. Normally, disorderly conduct is classified as a summary offense. A summary offense is any minor crime, initially heard and decided by a district justice. Other types of non-traffic summary offenses include underage drinking, harassment, criminal mischief and first offense shoplifting.

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist.


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Definitions in Pennsylvania's Disorderly Conduct Statute

Under Pennsylvania's disorderly conduct statute, under 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5503(c) the term “public” means affecting or likely to affect persons in a place to which the public or a substantial group has access.

The statute specifically includes any premises which is open to the public and places such as "highways, transport facilities, schools, prisons, apartment houses, places of business or amusement, [or] any neighborhood…."


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Philadelphia Police Department on Disorderly Conduct

According to the Citizen Information Bulletin #8 of the Philadelphia Police Department on disorderly conduct, "[t]he legal requirement of this law demands proof that the person by his/her actions intentionally or recklessly created a risk or caused a public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. Intent can be inferred from a police officers annoyance or frustration with the person."

The Philadelphia Police Department recognizes that the statute should not be used as a catch-all or dragnet for the prosecution of conduct that is merely uncivil, annoying or irritating. The stated policy of the police department in Philadelphia is to make an arrest for disorderly conduct only when the statutory elements have been met. The statute may not be used to punish anyone exercising a protected First Amendment Right.


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Finding a Philadelphia Defense Attorney for Disorderly Conduct

The criminal offense of disorderly conduct is a criminal offense with criminal penalties. Important defenses exist in many of these cases that may help you fight the charges. Call Alva & Shuttleworth, LLC to discuss your case and possible defenses.

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