Because of the extremely broad legal definition of ‘disorderly conduct, these charges are historically difficult to defend and often coupled with multiple (and sometimes more serious charges) in an effort to leverage plea bargaining in cases.
In recent years, however, dubious “disorderly conduct” arrests have plummeted, largely due to officer body cam programs and the subsequent tightening of disciplinary action when police break from protocol. This is good news for Minnesotans, but it doesn’t altogether exempt you from good behavior during your New Year’s celebrations.
If you wind up ringing in the new year with disorderly conduct charges, one thing is sure – you’re going to need the advice and assistance of an aggressive and respected Minnesota disorderly conduct lawyer with a winning record in these matters.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at four scenarios for how your New Year’s partying could quickly lead to a run-in with Minnesota law enforcement.
Scenario 1: Disturbing a Lawful Meeting or Assembly
This year, the annual Countdown Minneapolis NYE event will be held in the historic Minneapolis Club Event Center.
With 40-plus DJs commanding multiple dance floors and entertaining wall-to-wall people, it’s hard to imagine disturbing anything. This permitted event, however, is in fact a lawful assembly.
Which means all that’s required for you to be charged with disorderly conduct while there is you doing something that arouses anger, alarm, or resentment.
Again, these situations are highly subjective and difficult to defend. A seasoned disorderly conduct attorney would advise that you never plead guilty in this scenario, but the likelihood is high you’ll be facing these charges in court.
Scenario 2: Engaging in Brawling or Fighting
Let’s say you didn’t incite the situation in Scenario 1, but you were provoked and became involved in forceful physical contact with the person who did. Not only could you face disorderly conduct charges, but possibly assault charges to boot.
As pointed out in the introduction, stacking charges is a common way for police officers to ensure something will stick. It’s also difficult for police to fully assess a situation if and when it’s already occurred, and the charging officer may go ahead and bring charges for every accusation that holds water with the intent that the multiple charges will be sorted out in court.
Scenario 3: Using Obscene, Offensive, or Abusive Language
Whatever you do and regardless of your place in the incident that’s occurred, if the police become involved, remain calm. Virtually any remarks or gestures you make with the right attitude or tone can be construed as offensive or abusive.
Shooting the bird at the person you feel got you into this mess behind an officer’s back, muttering anything under your breath, blatant sarcasm toward anyone involved and, of course, using obscene language directly are all grounds for disorderly conduct charges.
Scenario 4: Acting with Obscene, Offensive, Abusive, Noisy, or Boisterous Conduct
The last common legal definition of “disorderly conduct” is to act with obscene, offensive, abusive, noisy, or boisterous conduct. Again, pretty broad definition, right?
There are two very common situations that bring about disorderly conduct charges in this scenario. The majority of New Year’s offenses actually occur after midnight, when the police are in full force, working hard to ensure every Minneapolis resident makes it home safe.
Let’s imagine the countdown has ended. You’ve rung in the new year, the lights have come up, your group has left the building, and the doors are all closed.
In the first situation, you may have had the night of your life and you’re on cloud nine, singing and dancing in the streets with your friends, not wanting the night to end. However, the officers on duty may find your behavior to be noisy or boisterous conduct. Next thing you know, you’re spending the first week of the new year seeking legal advice about disorderly conduct charges.
In the other scenario, you had such a great time that you forgot to use the facilities before you left the party – or maybe the line was just way too long. In either case, you aren’t going to make it home. You choose what you believe to be a dark corner or semi-private spot between two parked cars to relieve yourself, effectively committing an act of indecent exposure (which can be viewed as obscene and offensive, among other things).
So, What Is Disorderly Conduct in Minnesota?
So many things. That’s the point we’re trying to make here.
It can be fighting. Disturbing a lawful meeting. Saying something offensive or obscene. Being too noisy. Acting in abusive or offensive way.
Basically, pretty much anything that falls under the category of “getting wild on New Year’s” is something that could potentially result in a disorderly conduct charge.
There are requirements, though. It’s actually less about the act itself and more about how it’s received and what the intent was behind it.
In order for something to truly be disorderly conduct:
- It must reasonably arouse anger, alarm, or resentment.
- The person committing the act must know or reasonably understand the action would provoke an assault or disturb or breach peace.
Ultimately, the most common scenarios in which “disorderly conduct” is charged these days include assault, domestic assault, and heated arguments, bar fights, or brawls.
Depending on the actions and your relationship to the person “disturbed” by your behavior, you could be facing a maximum of 90 days in jail and $1,000 in fines. So take care to keep your New Year’s Eve celebrating in check, or you might be spending the first part of the brand-new year in a law office chair discussing defenses for disorderly conduct.
Be smart, be safe, and Happy New Year!
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).