Have you Been Charged with Disorderly Conduct in Georgia?
To keep communities peaceful and calm, many states and cities have laws that limit what people can and can't do. When people engage in conduct that is likely to cause a disturbance or lead to some sort of non-peaceful event, this behavior is often prosecuted as disorderly conduct. In some jurisdictions, it is the most commonly filed criminal charge. A range of behaviors can qualify as disorderly conduct, so it is important to hire a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to help sort out the specifics of your case. Lawson and Berry and their team of Georgia Disorderly Conduct lawyers have decades of experience and know how to successfully defend your case. Contact our offices today for a free case evaluation.
What is Disorderly Conduct in Georgia?
O.C.G.A. §16-11-39 outlines multiple ways in which a person can commit the offense of disorderly conduct:
- When a person acts in a violent or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby such person is placed in reasonable fear of the safety of such person's life, limb, or health;
- When a person acts in a violence or tumultuous manner toward another person whereby the property of such person is placed in danger of being damaged or destroyed;
- When a person without provocation, uses to or of another person in such other person's presence, opprobrious or abusive words which by their very utterance tend to incite to an immediate breach of the peace, that is to say, words which as a matter of common knowledge and under ordinary circumstances will, when used to or of another person in such other person's presence, naturally tend to provoke violent resentment, that is, words commonly called “fighting words”; or
- When a person without provocation, uses obscene and vulgar or profane language in the presence of or by telephone to a person under the age of 14 years which threatens an immediate breach of the peace.
Georgia Case Law
In Sandidge v. State, the defendant was not convicted of disorderly conduct because her words did not rise to the level of fighting words. 279 Ga. App. 86, (2006). The evidence showed that defendant, Sandidge, and her daughters were trying to check out at a clothing store. The storeowner closed the line for the register they were waiting for, and Sandidge became agitated. A police officer addressed her, and she waved her arms wildly in front of him and told him to “Arrest me.” She refused to leave the store as the officer requested and he restrained her and escorted her outside while she said, “Damn, I'm calling the corporate officer.” She was charged with disorderly conduct, but the Court found that her words did not rise to the level of fighting words and did not promote violent resentment. Therefore, she was acquitted of the disorderly conduct charge.
A man was convicted of disorderly conduct towards his ex-girlfriend and her husband. Thomas v. State, 276 Ga. App. 79, (2005). Thomas went to his ex-girlfriend's house late at night uninvited. He started to shout profanities at her husband calling her a “bitch” and threatening to kill both the victim and her husband. The Court found that the words used by Thomas were considered fighting words because they are abusive and would naturally tend to provoke a violent resentment. Therefore, he was convicted of disorderly conduct in violation of O.C.G.A. § 16-11-39.
What has to be Proven to be Convicted
To be convicted of disorderly conduct, the State must demonstrate that the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This involves showing that a person was placed in reasonable fear for their safety or that their property is going to be damaged or destroyed. It could also involve the State proving that the accused used fighting words to incite a breach of the peace.
Penalty for a Disorderly Conduct Conviction in Georgia
If convicted of disorderly conduct, the suspect will be guilty of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor convictions come with the consequences of up to one year in jail or up to $1,000.00 in fines, or both.
There was sufficient provocation: Evidence that the defendant was provoked before engaging in disorderly conduct would help negate the elements needed to be guilty of disorderly conduct.
The words did not amount to fighting words: The words used must be ones that incite violent resentment. If they do not, then one cannot be guilty of disorderly conduct.
The victim's fear was unreasonable: For an action to be considered disorderly conduct, it must have been one that a reasonable person would have feared for their safety. A Georgia Disorderly Conduct Attorney could help prove that their fear was unreasonable and not one that most people would have been afraid of.
To schedule a free consultation with one of the Georgia Disorderly Conduct Attorneys at Lawson and Berry, contact our offices today. Formulating a defense on your own can be overwhelming and seemingly impossible. Our Attorneys are highly knowledgeable and will assist you in formulating the best possible defense for your case. We will walk you through every step of the process, and we are dedicated to being accessible to you- days, nights, weekends, and holidays while working hard on your behalf. Your Attorney will make sure you understand all of your options and advise you on the best approach to take for your case based on their many years of experience. Your future is at stake so don't sit around waiting for your case to resolve itself.