Do Not Disturb: Officer Not Included

Know Your Rights: Contesting the Charge of Disorderly Conduct — You Must Have Disturbed More Than Just Your Arresting Officer

Disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct is among the most common type of criminal cases to come before the courts. This statutory offense is found at Md. Ann. Code § 10-201, “Disturbing the public peace and disorderly conduct.” In short, the offense includes acting disorderly in public, disobeying the lawful order of a police officer, or generally disturbing the peace of others. (A more detailed breakdown of the elements of disorderly conduct is available HERE.

It is important to note that real defenses are available to contest the charge of disorderly conduct. Notice the actual language of the offense: “disturbing the public peace.”This means that some member of the general public must have had his or her peace disturbed. Notably, this can’t simply be the arresting officer.

Remember, it is the burden of the State to prove its case. What this means is that a viable defense will demand that the State identify a witness that is able and willing to testify, under oath, that his or her peace was disturbed by an individual’s disorderly conduct.

In Maryland, this standard was set out in a case before the Court of Special Appeals. See In re Nawrocki, 15 Md.App. 252, (1972). In that case, the Court wrote that “disorderly conduct…requires the actual presence of other persons who ‘may witness’ the conduct…and who ‘may be disturbed or provoked to resentment thereby.’ ” The Court recognized that disorderly conduct was an offense against the peace of the public, not just a charge that could be levied on a police officer’s discretion alone.

Finally, keep in mind two things: 1) like all criminal cases, the State must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, and 2) the statute requires that the public peace be disturbed, requiring more than just the judgment of the police officer. Speaking with me can help you get these issues sorted out and help provide you a defense to the charge of disorderly conduct.

Fred Antenberg is an attorney Howard County Criminal Defense Attorney in Columbia, Maryland that handles criminal defense matters in Howard County, Maryland and surrounding counties. CONTACT Fred for your FREE CONSULTATION at 410-730-4404.

Md. Ann. Code § 10-201

In re Nawrocki, 15 Md.App. 252, (1972).