Disorderly Conduct - Penal Law Section 240.20

Disorderly Conduct is one of the few offenses from the actual Penal Law (where most of the more traditional criminal offenses are from) that frequently get charged in pink summonses.

Disorderly Conduct Statute Text:

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: 1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or 2. He makes unreasonable noise; or 3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or 4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or 5. He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or 6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or 7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. Disorderly conduct is a violation.

Discussion

As you can see, some of the disorderly conduct provisions seem astonishingly vague. The good news, however, is that disorderly conduct is a violation (non-criminal offense) so a person charged with disorderly conduct is not in danger of receiving a criminal record.

In truth the disorderly conduct statute is an extraordinarily important part of the criminal justice system in New York. In the negotiations over more seriously charged offenses, disorderly conduct frequently operates as a safety valve by permitting cases sometimes to be settled in a compromise where the accused is permitted to plead guilty to disorderly conduct instead of a misdemeanor. This sort of settlement operates a safety valve to relieve an overburdened criminal justice system of some of the pressure of cases where non-criminal settlements make sense.

But in the realm of pink summonses, where people are actually charged up front with disorderly conduct, the disorderly conduct pink summons is typically a red flag for what often turns out to be a person who irritated a police officer. People who get agitated in dealings with police officers can find themselves on the receiving end of disorderly conduct tickets pretty quickly. People who make efforts to try to calm down friends who are in agitated dealings with the police can often end up with disorderly conduct tickets of their own.

Because the disorderly conduct statute appears so broad and vague, the range of conduct that can result in the police deciding to issue a summons for disorderly conduct enormous. For the same reason, disorderly conduct tickets are occasionally written up by the police in ways that are so vague that they are insufficient legally even by the vague standards of disorderly conduct.

Probably the biggest down side to a disorderly conduct summons is that it is a Penal Law offense. If you plead guilty to a Penal Law offense (even a non-criminal offense like disorderly conduct) you will be required to pay a mandatory surcharge (a tax) that can often far outstrip any fine that the judge may offer as a resolution of the matter. With this in mind, when clients have wanted to settle disorderly conduct summonses, we have occasionally been able to negotiate pleas to another violation, from say, the Administrative Code where there is no mandatory surcharge.

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The content in this site is sponsored by Shalley and Murray, a new york city criminal defense law firm. Shalley and Murray is a private criminal defense law firm that can help with your pink summons case. Learn more about hiring an attorney from Shalley and Murray.

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Related New York Criminal Court Links

The following are links to related sites with more information about pinks summons cases or information about other aspects of the New York Criminal Justice System, including a link to webcrims, a way to check online where and when your case (including pink summons matter) is pending:

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