In Bucks County, the district courts are the venue for criminal cases. They currently manage roughly 130,000 total cases of all types, of which 10,000 are criminal that are overseen by the Office of the District Attorney. In 2017, there were 412 adults and 41 juveniles charged with misdemeanor charges classified as “public order” offenses. Within this category, a large percentage of cases involve charges of disorderly conduct.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
Pennsylvania Code defines disorderly conduct (§ 5503) as intentionally causing “public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly” acting in the following ways:
- Those who are engaged in threats, fights, or other riotous or violent behavior
- Creating unwanted noise
- Using offensive language or gestures
- Creating dangerous or offensive conditions
The offense applies when these actions are exhibited in the public, which may include any public venue including neighborhoods, schools, roadways, businesses, etc.
Disorderly conduct is generally deemed as being a summary offense. A conviction is punishable by up to 90 days of incarceration and a fine of up to $300. In Chapter 55 there are some related charges that upgrade the offense significantly. When an individual's disorderly conduct creates “substantial harm” or “persists” after being warned, the offense is a misdemeanor of the third degree. This enhances the penalties to a maximum of one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $2,500.
If three or more individuals are demonstrating acts of disorderly conduct that may create harm or prevent the authorities from enforcing the law, the charge may be upgraded to a failure of disorderly persons to disperse upon official order (§ 5502). This charge is a misdemeanor of the second degree, which is punishable by up to two years of incarceration and up to a $5,000 fine. The most serious form of this type of offense is a charge for rioting, a felony of the third degree punishable by up to seven years of incarceration and up to a $15,000 fine. This offense involves two or more individuals that intentionally commit a crime, demonstrate coerciveness, or use a lethal weapon.
Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD)
Some non-violent offenders may be eligible for ARD, a pretrial diversionary program. If a defendant successfully completes this lengthy process of requirements they may have their criminal offense dismissed and have no criminal record.
The agencies in the Pennsylvania criminal justice system are required to maintain a record of such offenses. Having a criminal conviction on your record may create long-term difficulties when individuals are subject to a background check, such as for some types of employment.
Expungement of Criminal Record
Past offenders may be eligible to have their criminal record expunged by court order under some of the following circumstances:
- The individual has not been charged with a crime for an 18-month period
- Those who had been convicted of certain offenses when they were a juvenile may be eligible for expungement after turning 21 years of age
- Those convicted of certain offenses that reach the age of 70 may be eligible for expungement if they have not had an offense for a 10-year period
- A summary offense conviction may be expunged after a five-year period without an offense
Attorney for Defense of Disorderly Conduct Charges in Bucks County
Joseph D. Lento is a criminal defense attorney who aggressively defends clients in the Pennsylvania court system. Those facing charges may face penalties such as incarceration and fines, in addition to the long-term effects of having a criminal record. Contact the office today for a consultation at (888) 535-3686.