Florida disorderly conduct laws help regulate and minimize disruptive behavior. They prohibit public acts that violate standards of indecency or corrupt public morals. If your child faces disorderly conduct charges, it could affect their future opportunities. This might include education, living arrangements and jobs.
According to the Florida Legislature, disorderly conduct is typically a second-degree misdemeanor. However, prosecutors may elevate it to a first-degree misdemeanor or felony charge if aggravating circumstances exist.
Although arrests for disorderly conduct occur frequently, the law uses very broad terms. Some of the most common examples of disorderly conduct include the following:
- Public intoxication
- Public arguments
- Public fights (affrays)
- Non-violent incidents with the police
If the prosecution brings second-degree misdemeanor charges, your child may face up to 60 days in jail and fines of up to $500.00. Penalties for a public fight could include incarceration up to a year for a first-degree misdemeanor. It may become longer than a year if they become felony charges.
Disorderly conduct charges generally cannot stand if your child used profanity, caused the gathering of a crowd or simply created an annoyance. The U.S. Constitution protects peaceful assembly, freedom of speech, religion and expression. The First Amendment limits the disorderly conduct statute specifically to “fighting words.” These words breach the peace when uttered, such as yelling “fire” in a crowded shopping mall or theater.
Yelling profanity or other obscenities at law enforcement rarely results in a conviction. However, the First Amendment does not protect actions coupled with fighting words that impair the officers’ duty.
Self-defense is also a valid defense to a disorderly conduct charge. Although it applies only to certain types of claims, the state must prove it was not self-defense beyond a reasonable doubt.