Disorderly Conduct Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Disorderly Conduct, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Disorderly Conduct?

n. 1) Actions which are disturbing to others. 2) A minor criminal offense. For example: public drunkenness, disturbing the peace, loud threats, or loitering.

History and Meaning of Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is a legal term used to describe behaviors that are considered disturbing to the public or to individuals around someone. The term first appeared in the early 1800s, and since then, has been utilized in many criminal codes as a minor offense. While disorderly conduct is not serious, it could lead to an individual's arrest, fine or imprisonment.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct

If someone is publicly drunk and presenting themselves as a threat to others’ safety or property, they could be charged with disorderly conduct. Other examples may include violent or aggressive behavior, making excessively loud noise or fighting in public areas, loitering around a crime scene, or using profane language in public spaces.

Legal Terms Similar to Disorderly Conduct

Some legal terms are closely related to disorderly conduct charges. These include disturbing the peace, breach of peace, affray, and public nuisance. Each of these terms reflects public disturbances in some capacity. For instance, disturbing the peace is known as disturbing public peace and breaching peace, and frequently involves words or deeds that disturb or provoke a peaceable assembly. An affray is similar to disorderly conduct in that it is another minor offence that involves fighting, and often takes place in a public place. Finally, the public nuisance charge is like disorderly conduct because it involves the breaking of the peace or the disturbing of the peace to the point where it becomes uncomfortable or harmful for those in the area.