Unlike other states where disorderly conduct is a minor violation punishable by a fine, Texas lawmakers made disorderly conduct a misdemeanor charge. A misdemeanor is a criminal offense punishable by a fine, probation or jail. Typical penalties for a first offense are a fine and, depending upon the circumstances, probation.
Police frequently use disorderly conduct when other criminal charges might not fit the exact set of facts and circumstances surrounding an incident. The wide-range of offenses that fall within the definition of disorderly conduct make it ideal when police are confronted by an individual whose actions are disruptive.
According to the Texas Penal Code, the following conduct or activities are considered disorderly conduct if committed in a public place:
The majority of disorderly conduct charges fall into the Class C misdemeanor classification and are punishable by fines not to exceed $500. Charges involving a firearm are Class B misdemeanors punishable by fines up to $2,000 and a jail sentence that does not exceed 180 days. Judges also have the option to sentence a person to probation supervision instead of a jail term.
Disorderly conduct offenses are public order crimes, so a key element that prosecutors must prove is the effect of the alleged conduct on the public in general or on other specific individuals. For example, a charge involving conduct or language likely to provoke a physical altercation, so called “fighting words,” could be defended by showing that the language or conduct might have been profane or vulgar, but it did not arise to the level of fighting words.
Justification for the alleged conduct might be a defense to a disorderly conduct charge including threats or verbal abuse directed toward another person or the display of a weapon. Such conduct used in self-defense or in defense of another person could possibly be a defense that a person could raise at trial.
For additional information about kinds of disorderly conduct, talk to Rand Mintzer at 713-862-8880 to schedule a free case review.