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What does it mean to be accused of disorderly conduct in Florida?

A fun night out on the town could quickly turn into a nightmare if a police officer accuses you of disorderly conduct. This offense, also called "breach of the peace," may be intentionally vague and broad. It encompasses a variety of activities believed to violate public decency or corrupt public morals -- whatever that means.

In Florida, it means a variety of things, but what it boils down to is that you somehow disturbed someone else's peace. Perhaps you attended a party that got too loud or walked the streets after drinking because you didn't think you should be driving. Whatever the case, an officer arrested you, and you want to understand why. 

Actions that Florida considers disorderly conduct

Here in Florida, the following actions can fall under the umbrella of disorderly conduct:

  • Obstructing traffic
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Inciting a riot
  • Loitering in certain places
  • Loud or unreasonable noise
  • Using extremely abusive or profane language
  • Fighting in public
  • Nonviolent contact with police

Whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges depends on the circumstances. You could face up to a year of jail time for misdemeanors, plus fines up to $1,000. If you face a felony charge of disorderly conduct, the penalties for conviction are generallty more severe.

What you can do about the charges

As is the case with any criminal charges, you retain the right to challenge them. Some of the defenses that could apply to disorderly conduct include the following:

  • The act was not public
  • The act was freedom of speech
  • The act was self defense

The other thing to consider is that the officer who arrested you will need to explain why your conduct constituted disorderly conduct. You see, this particular crime is often a catchall offense, which means that the officer may have had no other reason to arrest you but felt that you needed to be taken into custody. The officer may feel that you failed to show the appropriate respect to him or her, which led to your arrest.

Who can help you?

Due to the ambiguous nature of disorderly conduct charges, attempting to challenge them alone may not be the best course of action. It may be worth your while to seek out the advice and assistance of an attorney who understands this particular offense and can help you develop a defense that may provide you with the best outcome possible.

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