Connecticut Disorderly Conduct Law
(Connecticut General Statutes C.G.S. §53a-182)
Disorderly conduct is defined as unlawful conduct that is intended to “cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof." However, there are several types of unlawful conduct considered to be ‘disorderly.' Disorderly conduct can be a very subjective offense, and police have much discretion in determining whether or not your behavior arises to the level of unlawful conduct and thus subject to arrest.
Knowing when to listen and cooperate with police can go a long way sometimes to avoiding arrest. However, there is no doubt that the crime of disorderly conduct is inextricably tied to your 1st Amendment rights, and often there can be much gray area between the proper exercise of your rights and a lawful arrest. A top defense lawyer who is knowledgeable about the constitutional implications of disorderly conduct can help you avoid a conviction and a criminal record.
It is not uncommon for police to arrest a spouse for disorderly conduct following a domestic dispute as well. The implications can be disastrous especially if a divorce could potentially follow. The penalties for any arrest can affect one's life in many ways so it is well worth consulting with a local criminal defense lawyer if you or your child faces disorderly conduct charges in New Haven, Bridgeport, New London Hartford, or anywhere in Connecticut.
Prosecution of Disorderly Conduct under C.G.S. Sec. 53a-182
Disorderly conduct is codified in Connecticut General Statutes Section 53a-182. In order to be convicted of disorderly conduct in Connecticut, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had:
- (1) Intended to cause or recklessly created a risk to cause some unlawful conduct; AND
- (2) Engaged in some unlawful conduct, including:
- Fighting, violence, tumultuous, threatening behavior, or otherwise getting physical with another person.
- Conduct that would be considered grossly offensive or disorderly to a reasonable person in the community, which annoyed, disturbed, or otherwise interfered with another person.
- Unreasonable noise considering the time, place, and circumstances.
- Disturbed a lawful assembly or meeting of other persons by shouting or other unreasonable conduct without lawful authority to do so.
- Obstruction of vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
- Congregating with others and refusing to comply with a reasonable request by the police or other official's order to leave a public place or other place held out for public use.
- Trespassing and observing or “creeping on” another person in a house or other building who (a) had a reasonable expectation of privacy, (b) was not in plain view and (c) without their knowledge or consent.
- **The state may be required to prove additional elements based on the exact charges brought.
Intent and Reckless Risk
In order to have the required intent to be ‘disorderly,' a jury must find that you intended to cause what a reasonable person in the community would consider a disturbance or conduct that would impede other lawful activity. The law has also defined intent as what a reasonable person would see as provocation or a threat of danger or harm causing a reasonable person to feel anxious.
Note that it does not matter whether or not you actually caused the alleged unlawful conduct as long as your reckless behavior led a risk of causing the unlawful conduct.
Obstruction of Traffic Conduct
It is not ordinarily considered to be unlawful to distribute pamphlets or otherwise disseminate information along a public road, unless if, by doing so, you intend to cause inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or create a risk of obstructing traffic. Obstruction of traffic also depends on the facts and circumstances of your case. For example, politely handing out religious pamphlets at a sidewalk or even an intersection in the middle of the day would likely be considered lawful conduct. Panhandling for change near a highway entrance during rush hour is likely to be considered unlawful disorderly conduct.
Possible Defenses to Disorderly Conduct
At Sorrentino Legal, we know the best legal defenses to disorderly conduct in Connecticut. Some possible defenses you could raise are the following:
- The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you intended to cause or recklessly created a risk of unlawful conduct.
- The state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that that you engaged in the prescribed unlawful conduct.
- The police violated your 1st Amendment rights to freedom of speech, assembly, or religion when they unlawfully arrested you.
Punishment and Sentencing for Disorderly Conduct in Connecticut
Disorderly conduct is generally a Class C misdemeanor in Connecticut, however depending on the facts of your case, the state's attorney may charge you with other more serious crimes, even a felony. If convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct you could face the following penalties:
- Up to 3 months in jail;
- Fines up to $500; AND
Other Related Crimes to Disorderly Conduct
When you're arrested, it is not uncommon for the police to arrest you for multiple charges or for the State's Attorneys Office to add additional charges later. By doing this, they have more leverage in negotiating a plea and increase their chances of a conviction. However
- Assault [C.G.S. §§§ 53a-59, 53a-60, 53a-61]
- Violating a Criminal Protective Order [C.G.S. § CGS 53a-223]
- Violating a Civil Restraining Order [C.G.S. § 53a-223b]
- Breach of the Peace in the First Degree Involving an Imitation Explosive / Incendiary device / Hazardous substance [C.G.S. §53a-180aa]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(1)]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(2)]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(3)]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(4)]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(5)]
- Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree [C.G.S. § 53a-181(a)(6)]
- Obstructing Free Passage [C.G.S. § 53a-182a]
- Loitering on School Grounds [C.G.S. § 53a-185]
- Public indecency [C.G.S. § 53a-186]
- Criminal Trespass [C.G.S. §§§ 53a-107, 53a-108, 53a-109]
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(1)
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(2)
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(3):
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(4)
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(5)
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(6)
 C.G.S. § 53a-182(a)(7)
 State v. Indrisano, 228 Conn. 795, 810-11 (1994)