What Is Disorderly Conduct?

disorderly conduct laws

When it comes to laws, there are plenty of terms that people hear regularly. Despite that, some of the terms are a bit unclear for people. Take for instance disorderly conduct. What exactly does that term mean? What counts as disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct is a broad term that covers a variety of different acts that could be considered disruptive to the general public. Knowing this can help a person avoid getting into any trouble with the law.

California’s Disorderly Conduct Laws

There are a couple of different laws here in California that can fall within the category of disorderly conduct. For starters, there is Penal Code (PC) 647. This is California’s primary disorderly conduct law and covers a variety of different activities. Some other laws that can be considered disorderly conduct include:

  • PC 404 Rioting
  • PC 415 Disturbing the Peace
  • PC 416 Failure to Disperse
  • PC 602 Trespassing

For starters, PC 647 lists all of the following acts as disorderly conduct:

  • Lewd conduct in public. This occurs when people perform lewd or sexual acts in public.
  • This is pretty self-explanatory, but for those unaware, this occurs whenever someone pays or gets paid for a sexual act with another person.
  • Aggressive panhandling. Panhandling is legal, however, being very aggressive with it is not. A person cannot accost or harass another person while asking for money.
  • This occurs when a person lives in another person’s home or building without permission from the owner to do so.
  • Public intoxication. This doesn’t mean a person can’t be drunk in public. This just means that a person cannot be so drunk that they become a threat to the safety of others and themselves.
  • This occurs when someone hangs around on someone’s property with the intent of committing a crime.
  • This occurs when a person is loitering on someone’s property with the intent of peeking into an inhabited building.
  • Invasion of privacy. This occurs when a person uses a device to peek into and/or record someone’s home, a private bathroom, or changing room.
  • Revenge Porn. This occurs when a person distributes pornographic images or videos of a person without his/her permission.

Under California law PC 404, rioting is defined as 2 or more people doing the following without legal permission:

  • Using force or violence.
  • Disturbing the peace.
  • Threatening to use force or violence and having the means to back up that threat.

Under PC 415, disturbing the peace is defined as a person playing excessively loud music, fighting with someone, or using offensive language to start a fight.

PC 416, failure to disperse, occurs when a person assembles or gathers for the purpose of disturbing the public and then failing to leave after being ordered to do so by law enforcement agents.

Lastly, PC 602 defines trespassing here in California. Under this law, it is illegal for a person to enter or remain on someone else’s property without their permission.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Anyone who commits one of the above acts is guilty of disorderly conduct and will face penalties under one of the above laws. PC 647 is a misdemeanor offense that comes with:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

PC 404 is also a misdemeanor offense that comes with:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.

PC 415 is a wobbler offense that can be charged as an infraction or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case. The worst penalties for disturbing the peace are:

  • Up to 90 days in county jail.
  • A max fine of $400.

PC 416 is another misdemeanor offense that comes with:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Paying restitutions for any damages caused by the crime.

Trespassing is usually charged as either an infraction or as a misdemeanor but can be charged as a felony in rare instances. The first time someone trespasses on a particular piece of land, they will face an infraction charge that comes with a $75 fine. A second offense on the same piece of land sees the fine increase to $250. A third, or any subsequent offense, earns a person misdemeanor charges that come with:

  • Up to 6 months in county jail.
  • A max fine of $1,000.
  • Misdemeanor probation.

Trespassing can be charged as a felony when a person makes a credible threat against another individual and then within 30 days of issuing the threat is caught trespassing on the victim’s property or place of work. When this occurs, a person will face:

  • 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in county jail.
  • A max fine of $10,000.
  • Felony probation.

Just Be Mindful of Others

As one can see, there are plenty of different ways that a person can be accused of disorderly conduct. However, most of these acts are pretty easy to avoid. After all, it is not like a person is faced with the possibility of being in a riot every single day. As long a person is on their best behavior and doesn’t try to start fights with other people, they will be fine.