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:
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.