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Disorderly Conduct Charges In Texas: What To Know And How To Defend Your Case

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Disorderly Conduct Charges In Texas: What To Know And How To Defend Your Case


Disorderly conduct is a criminal charge that most people are familiar with, whether they’ve ever been charged or not. This is because it is a wide-ranging and sometimes vague legal accusation that covers so many acts. Making matters worse, “disorderly conduct” is sometimes a matter of perception. What you may feel was innocent or joking behavior could be construed by another – and law enforcement – as a violation of Texas law on disorderly conduct. Thousands are charged with disorderly conduct in Texas each year, and in many of those cases a defendant may have felt wronged by the accusation.

Under Section 42.01 of the Texas Penal Code, disorderly conduct covers a long list of behaviors, including when a defendant “intentionally or knowingly”:

  • Uses “abusive, indecent, profane, or vulgar language” in a public place, in a way that disrupts the peace;
  • Makes an offensive gesture or display in a public place;
  • Abuses or threatens someone in a clearly offensive manner;
  • Creates an obnoxious odor through “chemical means”;
  • Makes unreasonable noise in a public place or near a private residence;
  • Exposes their genitals in a public place;
  • Discharges a firearm in a public place where it is not allowed;
  • Displays a firearm in a way intended to threaten or intimidate others;
  • Fights with another person.

These and other acts can be interpreted as disorderly conduct and result in criminal charges for the person charged. Typically, disorderly conduct cases are charged as Class C Misdemeanors, punishable by fines up to $500. Disorderly conduct charges involving firearms could be charged as Class B Misdemeanors, with the possibility of jail time in addition to fines.

While the penalties associated with disorderly conduct might seem minor, they can have major effects on your life and even career. Conviction of any criminal charge can interfere with job applications, housing applications, and other life situations where a past mistake can come back to haunt someone.

Potential Defenses Against a Disorderly Conduct Charge in Texas

To obtain a conviction for disorderly conduct, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intentionally acted in a manner prohibited under the Texas disorderly conduct statute. For example,  using “fighting words” or acting in a way intended to provoke a disturbance. The State would also need to prove that you were in a “public place”, or entered a private residence in some way barred by law. In a disorderly conduct case, the State’s evidence will need to include some competent eyewitness testimony to support their claim.

Sometimes, the evidence they have is just not enough to carry a case to a guilty verdict against the defendant. Some important defenses available often include:

  • Conflicting eyewitness testimony;
  • The defendant was not in a “public place” when committing the alleged act;
  • The defendant was acting within their First Amendment rights to free speech or free assembly;
  • The defendant was acting in self defense, or out of provocation from some other person;
  • The defendant was not acting seriously, or with intent to disturb the peace or create a scene.

Talk to a Texas Criminal Defense Attorney Today About Your Rights in a Disorderly Conduct Case

Disorderly conduct might seem minor or even frivolous to some, but can carry serious consequences and leave a lasting criminal record. Before a conviction or guilty plea occurs, you need to remember the legal options and rights you might have available to you. At Keith B. French Law, we know how much your rights mean to you, and understand that a disorderly conduct charge is sometimes the result of a mistake or even an unfair accusation from a bystander or law enforcement. Even a misdemeanor case deserves the best possible legal representation. Contact our Pearland criminal attorneys for help today.


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