Disorderly Conduct in Ohio
25 Mar
Author: Colin Maher
Date: 2016-03-25
Categories: Traffic

Consequences of Disorderly Conduct in Ohio

The criminal consequences of disorderly conduct in Ohio can be severe in relation to the actual offense. The law is also quite broadly written and interpreted, putting school children at particular risk for arrest and criminal punishments.

The state laws of Ohio stipulate that disorderly conduct will be prosecuted as a minor misdemeanor unless the following circumstances aggravate the alleged offense:

  • It happens near a school or in a school safety zone.
  • It happens “in the presence of any law enforcement officer, firefighter, rescuer, medical person, emergency medical services person, or other authorized person who is engaged in the person’s duties at the scene of a fire, accident, disaster, riot, or emergency of any kind.”
  • It happens “in the presence of any emergency facility person who is engaged in the person’s duties in an emergency facility.”

What Constitutes Disorderly Conduct in Ohio?

The Ohio Revised Code defines disorderly conduct as an action that will “recklessly cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another.” O.R.C. 2917.11 goes on to list specific activities police, prosecutors, and judges should consider disorderly. Those, quoting from the statute, are

  • Engaging in fighting, in threatening harm to persons or property, or in violent or turbulent behavior;
  • Making unreasonable noise or an offensively coarse utterance, gesture, or display or communicating unwarranted and grossly abusive language to any person;
  • Insulting, taunting, or challenging another, under circumstances in which that conduct is likely to provoke a violent response;
  • Hindering or preventing the movement of persons on a public street, road, highway, or right-of-way, or to, from, within, or upon public or private property, so as to interfere with the rights of others, and by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender;
  • Creating a condition that is physically offensive to persons or that presents a risk of physical harm to persons or property, by any act that serves no lawful and reasonable purpose of the offender.

A second set of actions taken “while voluntarily intoxicated” in public or in the presence of two or more people can also bring charges and convictions for disorderly conduct in Ohio. Those are

  • Causing offense,
  • Causing inconvenience,
  • Causing annoyance,
  • Causing alarm, or
  • Putting oneself or others at risk for physical harm.

A sample of actions that can lead to an arrest and charge for disorderly conduct, drunk or sober, includes

  • Fighting
  • Arguing loudly
  • Trying to provoke a fight
  • Threatening to cause harm to a person or property
  • Acting in a violent manner
  • Yelling obscenities and making rude gestures
  • Verbally insulting someone
  • Blocking a road, sidewalk, doorway, or train track
  • Creating an unsafe situation
  • Drinking in public
  • Being visibly drunk in public

Looking at these lists, it becomes easy to understand why disorderly conduct is one of the most-cited alleged offenses. It is also easy to see why so many juveniles fond themselves facing the possibility of criminal charges. An argument with a schoolmate or sneaking a couple of beers can result in an arrest. That arrest can then trigger further adverse consequences like expulsion or loss of a scholarship.

What Is the Punishment for Disorderly Conduct in Ohio?

Except when certain facts exist, disorderly conduct in Ohio is prosecuted as minor misdemeanor. That means the only penalty will be a fine of up to $150 and court costs.

Disorderly conduct becomes a misdemeanor of the fourth degree when the alleged disturbing or harmful actions occur

  • After the person has been warned to stop;
  • Near a school or in a school safety zone;
  • In the presence of a first responder such as a police officer, firefighter, or EMT who is performing his or her duties at the scene of an emergency; or
  • In the presence of an employee or volunteer at an emergency facility.

So-called “persistent disorderly conduct” is also prosecuted a fourth-degree misdemeanor. A person is considered to be persistently disorderly after he or she fails to stop the behavior despite warnings.

A conviction or guilty plea for a fourth-degree misdemeanor can result in penalties of up to 30 days in jail and fines totaling $250. House arrest, probation, substance abuse counseling and treatment, and use of a monitoring ankle bracelet, in some combination, are possible in lieu of time spent in jail.

The actual criminal consequences of disorderly conduct in Ohio can be severe in relation to the offense. To understand that, as well as why contesting the charge with assistance from an Ohio disorderly conduct attorney can make sense, consider this list of behaviors defined as disorderly conduct in section 2917.11 of the Ohio Revised Code:

  • Fighting
  • Arguing loudly
  • Trying to provoke a fight
  • Threatening to cause harm to a person or property
  • Acting in a violent manner
  • Yelling obscenities and making rude gestures
  • Verbally insulting someone
  • Blocking a road, sidewalk, doorway, or train track
  • Creating an unsafe situation
  • Drinking in public
  • Being visibly drunk in public
  • Operating a vehicle even if one’s blood alcohol concentration or blood and urine levels of intoxicating drugs is below legal limits

The statute states that the behavior must be “reckless” and cause “inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm to another.” Those may seem like high bars of evidence to clear until one realizes that state law provides no objective standards for defining recklessness or inconvenience. Depending on what law enforcement officers and members of the public consider disorderly at a given time and in a given place, protest marches, acting erratically at a crime or crash scene, behaving in a distraught manner in a hospital, and attending a loud party can all be cited and prosecuted as disorderly conduct. So can joking around with friends in a parking lot and responding to another person’s aggressive behavior.

How Does a Defense Attorney Handle a Disorderly Conduct Case?

Even with its multiple lists, Ohio’s disorderly conduct statute leaves the decisions to make arrests, file charges, and pursue convictions as matters of interpretation. For instance, O.R.C. 2917.11 states that the allegedly criminal action must be done “recklessly” or in a manner that a sober person “of ordinary sensibilities” would understand the behavior to be problematic.

Does engaging in political protests meet the threshold? How about joking loudly with friends in a parking lot? Acting erratically at a crime scene? Hosting a loud party? Confronting a rude or dismissive ER doctor?

Personal decisions made by individual police officers determine nearly everything about whether a person ends up in custody and facing a criminal charge for disorderly conduct. An experienced disorderly conduct defense attorney will investigate every aspect of the case, question the judgments of the arresting officer, and interview witnesses.

Colin Maher of the Columbus, Ohio-based Maher Law Firm offers free consultations on disorderly conduct cases and takes on many clients for a flat fee. If you or someone you know is facing a disorderly conduct charge in Columbus, call Columbus criminal defense attorney Colin Maher at (614) 205-2208 or connect with him online.

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