Disorderly Conduct in Washington State

Protestors arrested for disorderly conduct.

Disorderly conduct is one of the most common criminal charges in Washington state. It is a misdemeanor offense and, compared to other crimes, many people view it as a relatively minor offense. However, a conviction carries a sentence of up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, and a permanent criminal record.

If you have been charged, you may feel that the charge was unfair or unwarranted. By working with an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you can fight the charge, reduce the severity of the penalties, or negotiate a plea to a lesser offense. Your lawyer may even be able to have the charges against you dismissed.

Criminal defense attorney Justin Campbell has extensive experience defending people who have been accused of all types of crimes. Improve your chances of a successful result by putting his experience to work for you. Justin begins his representation by asking questions to learn about your situation. Then he will provide advice about your options, answer your questions, and vigorously defend you against Washington criminal charges.

What Is Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly conduct covers a wide range of behaviors. Washington’s statute, RCW 9A.84.030, criminalizes activities that some people consider a public disturbance or a breach of the public peace. Specifically, RCW 9A.84.030 identifies the following conduct:

  • Using abusive language to intentionally create a risk of assault;
  • Intentionally disturbing a lawful meeting or assembly without lawful authority;
  • Intentionally obstructing traffic; or
  • Engaging in fighting, tumultuous conduct, or making unreasonable noise within 500 feet of a funeral.

While the crime covers many different activities, it is important to note that to convict a person, the prosecutor must prove more than that a person was simply engaging in conduct the police officer believed to be “disorderly.”

Defenses to Charges of Disorderly Conduct

Washington’s disorderly conduct statute identifies four basic types of conduct that can be considered “disorderly.” The first three require a showing of intentional behavior. Lack of intent is a common defense strategy that can be used to defeat a charge of disorderly conduct.

Abusive Language to Provoke an Assault

The most common cause of a criminal charge for disorderly conduct involves using abusive language to provoke someone into committing an assault. But to successfully prove disorderly conduct, the prosecution must prove that the defendant intended to start a fight. This is often easier said than done. To prove a case of disorderly conduct, the prosecution will need to provide evidence that the defendant used abusive language and made statements that clearly indicate an intent to start a fight, such as ”Hit me” or “Let’s go.”

Disturbing a Meeting

Charges of disorderly conduct for disturbing a meeting or another lawful assembly often arise in the context of a public meeting at city hall, or at the scene of another public demonstration.

In many cases, people simply are exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Sometimes these statements are rude or inflammatory. However, statements that are made outside of the public comment period or persistently speaking out of turn could lead to a charge of disorderly conduct.

Disrupting Traffic

Washington’s statute makes it a crime to “intentionally obstruct vehicular traffic or pedestrian traffic without lawful authority.” This activity is most common at political events such as a march, a protest, or a rally. Here, the phrase “without lawful authority” is critical. A common question in disorderly conduct cases is whether the organizers of a march or protest had a permit. If the organizers did not secure a permit or exceeded the scope of the permit, they could be charged with disorderly conduct.

Disturbing a Funeral

Finally, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct for disrupting a funeral. The Washington legislature enacted this portion of the statute in response to people who would protest at military funerals.

Contact the Campbell Law Firm for Defense Against Charges of Disorderly Conduct

If you have been charged in northwest Washington, the Campbell Law Firm can help. Based in Anacortes, the Campbell Law Firm proudly represents people throughout Skagit, Island, and San Juan Counties, including Anacortes, Mount Vernon, Burlington, Sedro-Woolley, Friday Harbor, Oak Harbor, and Coupeville.

The Campbell Law Firm handles most criminal defense cases for a reasonable flat fee.

To learn more about the Campbell Law Firm, read reviews from other people we have helped, and contact us today by calling (360) 588-4111 today to schedule a confidential consultation to begin preparing your legal defense.

Categories: Criminal Defense