Disorderly conduct—also known as disturbing the peace—is a broad criminal offense that may be used to charge a person who is being disruptive, unruly, causing public alarm, or otherwise disturbing the peace in a public place. Conduct does not have to occur on a public street to constitute disorderly conduct under most state statutes—it can even occur on the defendant’s own property.
Some common examples of behavior that may be charged as disorderly conduct include:
• being intoxicated in public and causing a disruption or disturbance, or being unable to function in a normal way;
• using abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language in a public place, when the language by tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
• making an offensive gesture or display in a public place, when the gesture or display tends to incite an immediate breach of the peace;
• using chemicals to create a noxious and unreasonable odor in a public place;
• abusing or threatening a person in a public place in an obviously offensive manner;
• making an unreasonable noise in a public place, considering the nature and purpose of the conduct, location, time of day or night, and other factors that would govern the conduct of a reasonably prudent person under the circumstances;
• fighting with another person or persons in a public place, or engages in threatening, violent behavior;
• displaying a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm;
• exposing the anus or genitals in a public place and being reckless about whether another may be present who will be offended or alarmed by the act;
• entering on the property of another and looking into a dwelling on the property through any window or other opening in the dwelling, for a lewd or unlawful purpose;
• while on the premises of a hotel or comparable establishment, looking into a guest room not the person's own through a window or other opening in the room, for a lewd or unlawful purpose;
• while on the premises of a public place, looking into an area such as a restroom or shower stall or changing or dressing room that is designed to provide privacy to a person using the area, for a lewd or unlawful purpose; or
• creating or maintaining a hazardous or physically offensive condition or situation.
Disorderly conduct is usually a misdemeanor or an infraction, but may be charged as a felony if it presents a serious risk to public safety. Disorderly conduct laws vary from state to state in their definitions and potential punishments, and are usually located in a state’s statutes—often in the penal or criminal code.