Facing Disorderly Conduct Charge?

Policeman putting a handcuffs on criminal's hands

Disorderly conduct, also known as disturbing the peace, is a common criminal charge in North Carolina. The crime encompasses any behavior that intentionally disturbs the peace. Disorderly conduct is commonly charged in conjunction with allegations of public intoxication.

What Is Disorderly Conduct

The crime of disorderly conduct is set forth in North Carolina Code § 14-288.4 and is defined as a public disturbance that is intentionally caused by a person who does any of the following:

  • Engages in fighting or other violent conduct, or in conduct that creates the threat of imminent fighting or other violence
  • Makes an utterance, gesture, or display, or uses disruptive or abusive language intended to provoke retaliation and causes of breach of the peace
  • Takes possession of a building or facility of a public or private educational institution without authorization
  • Refuses to vacate any building or facility of a public or private educational institution after an order from an administrator of the educational institution, a fireman or public health officer, or a law enforcement officer
  • Engages in sitting, kneeling, lying down, or inclining so as to obstruct ingress or egress of any person entitled to use a building or facility of a public or private educational institution, or who congregates, assembles, or forms groups or formations to block or otherwise interfere with the operation or functioning of a or facility of a public or private educational institution
  • Disrupts, disturbs, or interferes with the teaching of students at a public or private educational institution or engages in conduct that disturbs the peace at a public or private institution or on the grounds adjacent thereto
  • Engages in conduct that disturbs the peace on a public school bus or private activity bus
  • Disrupts, disturbs, or interferes with a religious service or engages in conduct that disturbs the peace at a religious service or assembly, including a funeral, memorial service, or family processional to the funeral or memorial service

Examples of Disorderly Conduct and Penalties

The conduct prohibited by the disorderly conduct statute makes clear that the history of the crime goes back to the 1960s when sit-ins, protests, and civil disobedience were common.

While mass protests are perhaps less common today, criminal charges for disorderly conduct are still alive and well. In addition to behavior that occurs at a protest, people are often charged with disorderly conduct for fighting, violent conduct, or conduct that creates a threat of violence and often accompany charges of public intoxication.


A first offense of disorderly conduct is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 120 days in jail. A second offense of disorderly conduct is a Class I felony and carries a maximum sentence of 24 months in prison. A third or subsequent offense is a Class H felony punishable by up to 39 months in prison.

Contact The Stowe Law Firm for Aggressive Defense

While it may seem easiest to simply plead guilty to charges of disorderly conduct, you may have strong defenses available, even if you think you are guilty. In addition, charges of disorderly conduct often accompany other, more serious crimes, such as charges of assault.

Before you decide to accept a plea, you should contact experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney Ryan Stowe. Attorney Stowe will evaluate your situation, offer advice, and help you consider the potential impact of a criminal conviction. This includes the possible sentence as well as the long-term implications a conviction could have on your life. In many cases, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to prove the charges, which can lead to a reduction in charges or even outright dismissal of your case.

Attorney Stowe will carefully analyze your situation, research the applicable law, and be a tenacious and forceful advocate on your behalf. He will craft a customized defense strategy, identify inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case, call and question witnesses in your defense, and cross-examine any witnesses called by the prosecutor. Attorney Stowe will present your case in the best possible light and argue for a reduction in charges, a reduced sentence, or dismissal of the charges.

To learn more about the Stowe Law Firm and how we can help, contact us today to schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your situation.

The Stowe Law Firm is based in Salisbury, North Carolina, and proudly represents people in Rowan County, Mecklenburg County, Davidson County, Cabarrus County, and Stanly County.