blog Criminal Defense Defenses and the Subjectivity of Disorderly Conduct Charges

Defenses and the Subjectivity of Disorderly Conduct Charges

By Colorado Attorney-at-law on December 20, 2023

Disorderly conduct charges are often subjective in nature, relying heavily on the interpretation of both law enforcement officers and witnesses. This subjectivity can provide a valuable opportunity for the defense to capitalize on key aspects of the case, which can increase the chances of a successful outcome for the accused.

Understanding Disorderly Conduct

According to Colorado Code § 18-9-106 (2022), disorderly conduct is committed when an individual intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly engages in certain behaviors in public places. These behaviors include making coarse and offensive utterances, gestures, or displays likely to incite immediate disturbances; creating unreasonable noise near a private residence without the right to occupy; engaging in public fights, excluding sanctioned athletic contests; discharging a firearm in public, except for lawful purposes; or displaying a deadly weapon in a manner causing alarm.

One of the challenges with Summit County disorderly conduct charges lies in their subjective nature. Law enforcement officers and witnesses may interpret behaviors differently, leading to varying perceptions of what constitutes disorderly conduct.

Behaviors that may lead to disorderly conduct charges include public intoxication, aggressive panhandling, or using offensive language in public places.

Defenses Based on Lack of Intent

A strong defense strategy involves establishing that the accused did not have the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Lack of intent can be a powerful argument against disorderly conduct charges. By presenting evidence that the defendant’s actions were accidental or unintentional, the defense can challenge the notion that the behavior was willfully disorderly.

Another defense avenue is arguing that the alleged disorderly conduct was a result of a misunderstanding or misinterpretation of the situation. This emphasizes the importance of context in evaluating the accused’s actions.

Free Speech and First Amendment Defenses

Disorderly conduct charges have the potential to infringe on First Amendment rights, particularly the freedom of speech, expression, and assembly. While disorderly conduct laws are intended to maintain public order and safety, their subjective nature and broad application can sometimes lead to situations where protected speech is mistakenly penalized.

Disorderly conduct charges may be applied to individuals participating in protests or demonstrations. The First Amendment protects peaceful assembly and expressive activities, but charges may be brought under the pretext of maintaining order, potentially infringing on the right to engage in political speech.

Much of First Amendment law is enshrined in court precedent that can be cited in motions and arguments to bolster a defense against Breckenridge disorderly conduct charges.

Challenge the Subjectivity of Perceived Disorderly Conduct

Challenging the subjectivity of perceived disorderly conduct involves addressing the inherent reliance on personal interpretations and potential biases in the assessment of the alleged behavior. Addressing bias and subjectivity includes scrutinizing the following potential issues:

The Potential for Biased Perceptions

Acknowledging the subjective nature of disorderly conduct charges emphasizes that what may be perceived as disorderly by one person may not be seen the same way by another. This argument underscores the potential for biased perceptions, highlighting that individuals witnessing the same event may interpret it differently based on their personal perspectives, experiences, and biases.

By exposing the inherent subjectivity, the defense challenges the objective validity of the disorderly conduct allegations.

The Credibility of Witnesses and Law Enforcement Officers

Questioning the credibility of witnesses and law enforcement officers involved in the case is a crucial tactic. This involves scrutinizing their ability to accurately observe and interpret the events leading to the disorderly conduct charges. This may include exploring potential biases, prior inconsistencies in their statements, or any factors that might impact their objectivity.

By raising doubts about the reliability of those reporting disorderly conduct, the defense aims to weaken the prosecution’s case and challenge the perceived objectivity of the accounts.

The Accuracy and Reliability of the Accounts Leading to the Charges

The defense can present evidence that directly challenges the accuracy and reliability of the accounts leading to the disorderly conduct charges. This may involve introducing alternative perspectives, video footage, or eyewitness testimonies that contradict the prosecution’s narrative.

By offering a different version of events, the defense seeks to create reasonable doubt about the accuracy of the perceived disorderly conduct and demonstrates that multiple interpretations are possible.

Presenting Alternative Explanations

A robust defense involves offering alternative explanations for the alleged disorderly conduct. This could involve demonstrating that the accused’s actions were reasonable under the circumstances. The concept of reasonableness often hinges on factors such as self-defense, protection of others, or response to imminent danger. If the accused can demonstrate that their actions were a proportionate and necessary response to a perceived threat or provocation, it may be considered a valid defense.

Introducing evidence that suggests the accused’s actions were justified provides the jury with an alternative perspective, challenging the prosecution’s narrative. Ultimately, the determination of whether the accused’s actions were reasonable depends on the specific details of the case and the legal standards applied in that jurisdiction.

Contact Whitaker & Penix, LLC—We Fight To Win

If you find yourself facing disorderly conduct charges, you’ll want to make sure that any subjectivity or bias harming your case is addressed and eliminated. That’s where Whitaker & Penix, LLC steps in. Our Breckenridge criminal defense lawyers will ensure that you receive a fair trial.

We’re here to guide you through the complexities of your case and protect your rights at every turn. When you choose Whitaker & Penix, LLC, you can count on our attorneys to craft a strong and compelling defense with unwavering support.

Contact us today at (970) 368-0602 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.

Posted in: Criminal Defense