Did You Cause a Ruckus in Public?

disorderly conductDisturbances in public can lead to many consequences for those causing them. It can start as a simple nuisance to bystanders but can quickly progress into a dangerous situation for everyone around. Several types of public disturbances can occur: public intoxication, disorderly conduct, riot, stalking, aggressive panhandling, and disrupting meetings or processions.

All may be categorized under the same criminal umbrella, but they each have different definitions and penalties that tag along. Public disturbances should be taken care of right away as they can pose a serious risk to innocent pedestrians, vehicle operators, and physical property.

What is public intoxication?

Public intoxication laws are meant to protect the safety of someone who is intoxicated and protect society’s interest in the safe use of public places. Public intoxication is committed in Tennessee when a person appears in a public place under the influence of a controlled or intoxicating substance to the degree that:

  • The offender may be endangered
  • Other people or property may be endangered
  • The offender unreasonably annoys people in the vicinity

If you are merely sitting in a car on a public road, you could be guilty of public intoxication if you are considered a danger to yourself or others or are unreasonably annoying to others. If you are staggering down a sidewalk, the police could likewise charge you with public intoxication because you may be considered a danger to yourself due to your risk of falling.

What is disorderly conduct?

Disorderly conduct laws allow police officers to arrest people whose public behavior is offensive or disruptive or whose actions interfere with other people’s enjoyment of public spaces. While these actions often occur because of the offender’s use of alcohol or drugs, that is not a requirement for the crime in Tennessee. Any kind of disruptive conduct in a public place – including loitering, fighting, being unreasonably noisy, refusing to disperse, and otherwise disturbing the peace – falls under the definition of disorderly conduct.

However, merely slinging insults or shouting profanity at police officers generally will not constitute disorderly conduct (although that doesn’t mean you should do it). An arrest for disorderly conduct can usually be avoided if you simply follow the officer’s commands.

Both public intoxication and disorderly conduct are Class C misdemeanors in Tennessee and are punishable by fines (and sometimes a night in jail). Because the charge will show up on your criminal record, if you find yourself in either of these situations, it’s best to call an experienced criminal law attorney right away to try to beat the charges.

What is a riot charge?

Every American citizen has the right to protest as per the First Amendment. However, what starts as a peaceful protest can sometimes turn into a full-blown riot. Rioting is when at least three or more people begin to engage in violent acts that pose danger to other people and property. Even if these individuals were only planning the riot and did not physically carry out any violence, they can be considered as having participated.

Tennessee classifies a person who has committed this violation as having executed a Class A misdemeanor. Those involved could spend a minimum of thirty days incarcerated for these disruptions. There is also an order of restitution, or compensation, for any property that was damaged during the riot.

What is stalking?

Stalking is a serious Class A misdemeanor (or Class E felony for those already registered in Tennessee as a sexual offender) that is defined as repeatedly harassing another person to the point where they feel intimidated and threatened. It can involve many forms of unconsented contact, such as sending the victim an unwanted email, confronting the victim at their workplace, entering their private property, and even physically placing an object on their property.

Aggravated stalking occurs when an already previously convicted stalker performs the same actions on the same victim. This is considered a Class E felony and can lead to serious bodily harm to the victim. Another form of stalking, known as especially aggravated stalking, is even more severe and is a Class C felony. It’s punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

What is aggressive panhandling?

When a person commits the violation of aggressive panhandling, they are lobbying for a donation of money or goods in extreme manners. This involves:

  • Making any gesture where the victim feels they’re in harm’s way if they refuse the solicitation
  • Deliberately getting in the victim’s path and not letting them leave
  • Following the victim that is walking away from them unless the victim decides to donate
  • Intentionally touching the victim without their consent

Aggressive panhandling is a Class C misdemeanor as per the state of Tennessee. A person who has already violated this code paves the way for a Class B misdemeanor. They could be in jail for up to 90 days and pay heavy fines.

What is a charge of disrupting a meeting or procession?

When a person is disrupting a meeting or procession, they are causing a public disturbance and are subject to a Class A misdemeanor. This happens when the individual interrupts a lawful meeting or gathering through physical or verbal “utterance,” or action. An example of this could be an individual intending to disrupt a meeting by constantly shouting and not letting others speak. If it becomes physical, the individual could act out with violence or simply throw an object on the gathering grounds. Acting in this manner allows police officers to arrest these individuals on the spot. Conviction for a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee could result in up to 11 months in jail, or 29 days or a fee of up to $2,500 – or both.

If you’re facing public disturbance or similar charges, contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys today at the Law Offices of Adrian H. Altshuler & Associates. No matter the situation, we will help guide you along every step of the way. With offices in Franklin, Columbia, and Brentwood, we can ensure your convenience when meeting us for an appointment. Call our office or complete our contact form today.