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What Does Disorderly Conduct Mean Under Minnesota Law?

Virtually every state has some form of statute outlawing “disorderly conduct.” So what does disorderly conduct mean? While the specifics of these offenses vary across state lines, disorderly conduct typically involves some form of disruptive conduct that is offensive to the general public.

Often, the police use this offense as a catch-all to make arrests for behavior that is borderline criminal at best. Often, these arrests involve individuals that are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. That is not the case in Minnesota, which relies on other statutes for intoxication-related issues.

If you are facing charges of disorderly conduct, you deserve legal counsel that will fight for you. The attorneys at Gerald Miller look forward to the opportunity to serve as your advocate. To learn more, schedule your free consultation today.

Disorderly Conduct in Minnesota

The charge of disorderly conduct falls under the purview of Minnesota Statutes Section 609.72. The statute outlaws a broad range of behavior. In Minnesota, it is illegal to act knowing or having reason to know that your actions will alarm, anger, disturb, provoke an assault, or provoke a breach of the peace. These actions can occur on public or private property.

The acts that qualify as disorderly conduct vary from harassment to acts of violence. This statute applies when a person:

  • engages in brawling or fighting
  • disturbs an assembly or meeting, not unlawful in its character
  • engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or inoffensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others

There is a difficult balancing act between the enforcement of disorderly conduct laws and the protection of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. To obtain a conviction, the state must establish that the defendant used “fighting words” or engaged in some other type of conduct that is not protected by the Constitution. This often results in a viable defense at trial.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Minnesota

Compared to other criminal charges, the penalties upon conviction for disorderly conduct are relatively minor. However, any risk of jail time is a serious consequence for most people.

Disorderly conduct is treated as a misdemeanor under the statute. If convicted, you could face a penalty of up to 90 days behind bars and a fine of no more than $1,000.

That said, it is possible for these penalties to increase under specific circumstances. When a caregiver commits disorderly conduct against a person that qualifies as a vulnerable adult, the penalty range increases. This carries up to one year in jail as well as a maximum fine of $3,000.

For many people, the collateral consequences of a criminal conviction outweigh any time they spend behind bars. Long after the fines are paid and the jail time is served, the criminal conviction on your permanent record could continue to cause you grief. Employers have the right to screen potential hires based on their criminal records. The same is true for prospective landlords. A conviction could even put your professional license at risk in some situations.

What’s more, a plea bargain typically cannot protect you from these collateral consequences. As long as you have a conviction on your record, you are at risk for it to cause havoc in your life for years to come.

Ultimately, the best way to protect your future is to avoid a conviction entirely. By fighting back against the charges against you, it is possible that you could see your case dismissed or even prevail at trial.

Defenses to a Disorderly Conduct Charge

For some people, an arrest for disorderly conduct might seem like a conviction is inevitable. The police and prosecutors will rarely do anything to persuade you otherwise. While the prosecutor might seem confident in the case against you, the reality is that there are many viable defense strategies for a disorderly conduct case.

The attorneys of Gerald Miller are adept at building a strong defense based on the facts of your case. We will work tirelessly to give you the best opportunity to avoid a conviction or reduce a potential sentence. Developing a strong defense strategy is key to those efforts.

Lack of Intent

There is an element of intent to any disorderly conduct case. To be guilty of disorderly conduct, a person must have either known or had reasonable grounds to know that their conduct would tend to alarm, anger, or disturb others, or provoke an assault or breach of the peace.

It is not a defense on it sown to not know that a person’s behavior might lead to those consequences. However, the state must show that a reasonable person would have known it was a possibility. If the defense can show that a reasonable person had no reason to believe the conduct in question might alarm, anger, or disturb someone, a conviction of disorderly conduct would be inappropriate.

Seizures or Uncontrolled Movements

There is a criminal defense built specifically into the language of the statute itself. According to the statute, a person does not commit disorderly conduct if the conduct in question was caused by an epileptic seizure. This section extends beyond epileptic seizures and covers any uncontrolled movement caused by a medical condition. This defense is in place because disorderly conduct is designed to cover intentional acts that cause a disruption.

Self Defense

In limited circumstances, an act of self defense could be used as a defense strategy in a disorderly conduct case. One of the specific elements of disorderly conduct involves engaging in any brawling or fighting. However, self defense applies to these circumstances just like they would in an assault charge. If you are defending your self or others from the threat of immediate harm, you could use that as a valid defense to allegations of disorderly conduct.

No Lawful Assembly or Meeting

One of the specific elements of disorderly conduct under state law involves disturbing a lawful assembly or meeting. There are a few ways that the nature of an assembly could serve as a defense to a disorderly conduct charge. First and foremost, not every gathering or people is an assembly or meeting. Acts that disturb individuals that do not qualify as an assembly are not criminal.

Another important caveat is that the assembly or meeting must be lawful. If it not, any act to disturb that assembly does not constitute disorderly conduct. This could be the case for an assembly that is trespassing or violating the state’s riot laws.

The Process of Building Your Disorderly Conduct Defense in MN

When the attorneys of Gerald Miller take your case, there are different ways we could help you fight back against a conviction. Our team understands disorderly conduct charges, and we are prepared to use our experience to help you secure a favorable outcome in your case. Some of the ways we could help include:

Thoroughly Investigating Your Arrest in Minnesota

Part of building a strong defense is thoroughly investigating every aspect of your arrest. We could talk to witnesses, review police reports, and identify the important facts surrounding the incident. A thorough investigation is necessary before we can build a winning defense strategy.

Negotiating Plea Agreements in Minnesota

For many people, obtaining a fair plea offer could be the best possible outcome in their case. While an acquittal or dismissal is ideal, there are some situations in which avoiding jail time or a mark on your permanent criminal record might be your top priority. We can help with that.

Fighting For You In Minnesota Court

A plea bargain might not always be in your best interest. In some cases, we might be able to have your case dismissed by filing a motion. In others, we could take your case to trial and secure an acquittal. Serving as your advocate in court is one of the best ways we can work to secure a positive outcome in your disorderly conduct case.

Discuss Your Disorderly Conduct Case with a Lawyer at Gerald Miller

You should never assume a conviction for disorderly conduct will not have a major impact on your life. Even if you are unlikely to face jail time, a criminal conviction could have consequences you did not see coming.

The team at Gerald Miller knows what is at stake in every criminal prosecution. We pride ourselves by serving as advocates for the accused. We have extensive experience defending clients from disorderly conduct charges, and we look forward to putting that experienced to work for you.

It is understandable if you have questions about your case. To get the answers you are looking for, schedule your free consultation with Gerald Miller by calling us at (612) 440-4608 as soon as possible.


This article was originally published on November 20, 2020 and updated on September 20, 2021.

About the author

Brodie Hacken

Brodie is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer in Minnesota with 15 years of experience. He is passionate about protecting the rights of his clients and ensuring they receive the best possible representation. When he's not in the courtroom, Brodie enjoys spending time with his family and playing golf.

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