Generally speaking, disorderly conduct (a.k.a. disturbing the peace) refers to behaviors and words that disrupt the lives of others in a way that they interpret as threatening. The laws for disorderly conduct (O.C.G.A. § 16-11-39) are written in a way that leaves them open to interpretation, and there are both state laws and city ordinances to consider.
Understanding Georgia State Disorderly Conduct Charges
In Georgia, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct for either violent actions or abusive language. On one hand, a charge can be brought for acting in a violent manner towards another in a way that puts them in reasonable fear for their wellbeing or property. On the other hand, he or she can also be charged for using fighting words, which is defined as language that incites an immediate breach of peace or naturally tends to provoke violent resentment.
In both of these cases, the accused is facing a misdemeanor charge that carries fines and potential jail time, depending on the details of the case.
Understanding Georgia City Ordinances for Disorderly Conduct
While the state laws cover the actions discussed above, the cities are free to expand the laws as they see fit for their community. Therefore, in some cities, disorderly conduct laws may be expanded to include activities such as (but not limited to) gambling, engaging in fraud, illegal alcohol sales, obstructing people or traffic, acting in a loud or disruptive manner at certain locations, and littering.
The more comprehensive city ordinances give prosecutors wide discretion when bringing charges of disorderly conduct. It can also make it quite complicated for the accused to understand the charges being brought against him or her.
What to Do When Charged with Disorderly Conduct in Georgia
While disorderly conduct in Georgia is a misdemeanor, it can carry significant fines and there is the potential for 6 to 12 months of jail time. Therefore, it is essential to get expert legal representation as quickly as possible.
Because the disorderly conduct laws are often subjective in their nature, there is a significant chance you have been wrongfully accused. You and your attorney will look at the details of your specific case for a lack of validity to the charges that could get the case dismissed all together. If that’s not possible, your attorney will be able to craft the best possible defense based on all the options available to you.
If you are facing disorderly conduct charges in Georgia, we can help.
At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.