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ARS 13-2904 Arizona’s Disorderly Conduct Law

Disorderly conduct charges are one of the most commonly occurring charges in Arizona law enforcement. Because the definition is broad and open to interpretation, the police can issue a charge of disorderly conduct under a wide variety of circumstances. Depending on the situation, a disorderly conduct conviction could be a misdemeanor or a felony. Either way–a conviction for disorderly conduct comes with serious consequences, including a lifelong criminal record with potential impacts on the convicted individual’s ability to pursue the career of their choice.

Those facing disorderly conduct charges in Arizona should take these charges seriously and hire an experienced criminal lawyer for the rigorous defense they are entitled to under the law.

What Is Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct charges are also commonly called “Drunk and Disorderly” or “Disturbing the Peace,” since both types of charges fit under the disorderly conduct umbrella. Arizona’s Statute ARS 13-2904 describes disorderly conduct as any of the following:

  • Disturbing the peace and quiet of a neighborhood, family, or individual
  • Fighting or engaging in disruptive behavior
  • Making unreasonable levels of noise
  • Using offensive or abusive language toward another individual to incite physical violence
  • Preventing business transactions, meetings, processions, and gatherings through prolonged noise, disruption, utterances, and other displays
  • Refusal to disperse upon a lawful order intended to protect public safety
  • Recklessly displaying, handling, or discharging a weapon in public

Because ARS 13-2904 covers a wide range of behaviors with ambiguous language, law enforcement officers often use this charge freely, making it easy for a situation to quickly escalate from a foolhardy or reckless moment to a conviction and a lifelong criminal record. In some circumstances, disorderly conduct charges also have the potential for the addition of a domestic violence enhancement which significantly increases the penalties upon conviction.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct Convictions

Because disorderly conduct is a subjective term, charges of disorderly conduct may be either a class 1 misdemeanor or—if the conduct involves a weapon or dangerous instrument used as a weapon—a class 6 felony.

Penalties for misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges include up to six months of jail time, five years probation, and fines as high as $3,600. With a conviction for class 1 domestic violence disorderly conduct, the convicted individual loses their right to own firearms and must complete a state-approved domestic violence program.

A conviction for class 6 felony disorderly conduct involving a weapon results in more severe penalties including up to three years in prison for a first offense and up to six years in prison for those with a previous criminal record. The convicted individual loses their civil rights, including the right to own firearms and the right to vote.

Common Defenses to ARS 13-2904 Disorderly Conduct Charges

Disorderly conduct charges are serious, with the potential to escalate one moment’s reckless behavior into the level of criminal conduct with lifelong impacts on the future. Some individuals have been charged and convicted of disorderly conduct even in cases when no one’s peace was disturbed, but the police allege that the individual had intent to disturb the peace.

Fortunately, you or your loved one has the right to mount a vigorous defense to disorderly conduct charges. A Phoenix criminal lawyer is familiar with this all-too-common charge. Though no two cases are the same, there are some common and effective defense strategies to prevent a conviction. Common strategies for defense include the following:

  • No criminal action occurred: due to the broad, open-ended language of ARS 13-2904, your Arizona defense attorney may refer to the court’s previous decisions differentiating between rude and offensive behavior and criminal actions with injured or threatened victims. If the alleged victim did not feel threatened or provoked to retaliation, then no criminal action occurred. For instance, shouting and using offensive language without making physical contact or threats of physical contact means there was no assaultive behavior that took place.
  • The defendant lacked the state of mind required for disorderly conduct. This common defense to disorderly conduct charges asserts that the charged individual did not intend to disturb the peace or didn’t know that their behavior was disturbing anyone’s peace. If the disruptive behavior wasn’t intended to target anyone, the police cannot prove intent. The defense can argue that the incident was accidental and unintended.
  • Free speech, First Amendment defense: depending on the nature of the offensive words, a strong defense against a disorderly conduct conviction is the assertion that the defendant’s words did not incite a violent physical reaction or were not “fighting words” which are the only exception to the constitutional right to free speech.
  • The right to self-defense or defense of another: If the defendant’s disorderly conduct occurred due to a belief that they or their loved one was in an imminent threat of danger they are justified in the conduct due to their right to self-defense as long as they did not first incite the threatening behavior.
  • Defensive firearm display: this defense asserts that the individual facing disorderly conduct charges for displaying a lethal weapon only displayed their firearm in self-defense or the defense of another due to a reasonable fear of imminent physical harm. This is a valid defense as long as the defendant didn’t first incite the other person’s threatening behavior.
  • Process violations: common defenses of disorderly conduct charges focus on law enforcement’s process errors or intentional violations of the defendant’s constitutional rights. This may include a lack of probable cause, failure to obtain a warrant, Miranda rights violations, or denial of the defendant’s right to counsel.

Skilled Legal Representation is Essential When Facing Disorderly Conduct Charges in Arizona

Because of the subjective nature of disorderly conduct charges, they’re often thrown at an individual when law enforcement officers cannot find serious charges for criminal actions because no criminal action took place. Fortunately, this also means that a prompt, vigorous defense strategy helps a suspect avoid a conviction and the life-long consequences of a criminal record. Your Arizona criminal defense attorney will investigate the case, interview eyewitnesses, file motions on your behalf, and negotiate with the prosecutor for dropped or reduced charges. If the case goes to trial, your criminal defense attorney will implement a strong defense strategy to prevent a conviction.