Pennsylvania's criminal provisions have a category of offenses referred to as “offenses of public order and decency.” The types of offenses in this group include disorderly conduct, loitering, failure to disburse, and similar acts of disruption in public settings. In 2017 in Berks County, there were a total of 611 adult cases and 58 juvenile cases involving violations of public order.
Disorderly Conduct (§5503)
Acts of disorderly conduct are knowingly committed in a public venue. It may involve behavior that is considered as inconvenient, annoying or alarming to the public. The offender may be engaging in behavior that incites violence or is otherwise rowdy. It commonly will involve creating noise, using offensive language or gestures or generating a highly disruptive environment that has no legitimate purpose.
The least serious violations are charged as a summary offense. The charges may be upgraded to a third-degree misdemeanor if the crime is committed with intent to “cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience” or when an individual fails to comply with warnings or orders to desist. This is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year of incarceration and a $2,000 maximum fine. It should be noted that the crime is committed in public, meaning any “highways, transport facilities, schools, apartment houses, places of business” or other venues that permit the general public.
Understanding Summary Offenses in Pennsylvania
Minor crimes are considered summary offenses. These are of less severity than misdemeanors and may include violations of motor vehicle laws, criminal mischief, minor shoplifting offenses, and more. Often members of law enforcement will issue a citation to those accused of these offenses without a formal arrest. The maximum penalties are 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD) for Summary Offenses in Berks County
The District Attorney for the County implemented an ARD program for summary offenses that include disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing, criminal mischief, public drunkenness, and similar offenses. When the requirements are satisfied, the defendant is eligible to have their case dismissed. Some of the key provisions include the following:
- Participants may be adult or juveniles and must pay $100 for the program
- Defendants submit a written application to the Office of the District Attorney for approval
- If the application is denied, the defendant will be informed of the reason(s) for the decision
- If the application is accepted, a hearing date is scheduled
- The following programs may be required based on the nature of the offense:
- Underage Drinking Program
- The STOPLIFT Shoplifting Intervention Program
- Community Service coordinated through the Probation Department
- Up to 40 hours for adults and 20 hours for juveniles
- Another suitable program approved by the District Attorney
Berks Country also maintains a Drug Treatment Court Program that combines intensive treatment for drugs and alcohol with probation. The program has four distinct phases. Some of the key requirements include attendance at group support gatherings and “sober leisure activities.”
The participants are required to call each day to determine if they will be subject to a urine drug screen. Participants are expected to maintain employment, obtain a driver's license, and pay all fines and restitution. It is also required that hours of ordered community service are completed.
Legal Representation for Disorderly Conduct Cases in Berks County
An experienced criminal defense attorney can significantly benefit those facing criminal allegations. Joseph D. Lento aggressively defends clients and ensures their rights are protected. He has been effectively obtaining favorable outcomes in these cases for many years. For a complimentary legal consultation, contact the office today at (888) 535-3686.