What Is Disturbing The Peace In New York City?

Disturbing the peace is called “disorderly conduct” under New York law. It is covered by New York Penal Law Section 240.20. It covers a number of different behaviors, including:

  • Fighting
  • Engaging in “violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior.”
  • Making unreasonable noise.
  • Using abusive or obscene language in a public place.
  • Making obscene gestures.
  • Disturbing lawful assemblies or meetings without lawful authority to do so.
  • Obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
  • Congregating with other people in a public place and refusing to comply with a awful order to disperse.
  • Creating hazardous or physically offensive conditions by any act which serves no legitimate purposes.
  • Disrupting a funeral or religious service, which is covered under NY Penal Law Section 240.21.
  • Loitering, which is covered by additional sections of NY Penal Law 240.
  • Public intoxication.
  • False alarms and fake bombs.

As you can see, this covers a wide variety of behaviors and gives police quite a bit of latitude to make arrests under this charge. “Unreasonable” noise could mean different things to different people, after all, and so could obscene language.

Fortunately, disorderly conduct is not even a misdemeanor. It’s a “violation,” punishable by up to 15 days in jail, and a $400 fine. It does not result in a criminal record. In addition, the courts have ruled that swearing out loud during a police encounter does not count as disorderly conduct because it is protected by the 1st Amendment.

That does not mean you shouldn’t worry about an arrest. If the arrest goes poorly you could be charged with resisting arrest, as well, which is a misdemeanor. There is a chance they will find other, more serious charges to levy against you as well. You should take this charge every bit as seriously as you’d take any arrest.

We have a number of defenses that we can use on your behalf, including self-defense or defense of others. We can also call police behavior into question, or demonstrate that the incident in question did not involve a significant enough segment of the population to count as disorderly conduct.

If this is your first offense a charge like disorderly conduct may be eligible for pretrial diversion or other programs which keep you out of jail. Our goal is to help you minimize the impact the arrest is having on your life. Even 15 days in jail time disrupt most people’s ability to maintain their housing or hold down a job. If you need help with a disorderly conduct charge, call us right away.

See also:

What Happens at a NYC DUI Traffic Stop? 

How Does Alternative Sentencing Work in NYC? 

Is it a Crime to Insult a Police Officer?

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About The Author

Jeffery Greco

Jeffery Greco is an attorney providing legal services covering Criminal Defense and Criminal Defense: White Collar and Criminal Defense: DUI / DWI. Jeffery Greco, who practices law in New York, New York, was selected to Super Lawyers for 2020 - 2023. This peer designation is awarded only to a select number of accomplished attorneys in each state. The Super Lawyers selection process takes into account peer recognition, professional achievement in legal practice, and other cogent factors. Prior to becoming an attorney, he studied at South Texas College of Law Houston. He graduated in 2004. After passing the bar exam, he was admitted to legal practice in 2005.

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