Disorderly Conduct Laws in Texas: What Happens When You Disturb the Peace
- October 12, 2016
- The Law Office of Greg Tsioros
- Comments Off on Disorderly Conduct Laws in Texas: What Happens When You Disturb the Peace
Explaining Disorderly Conduct in Texas
If you’ve ever seen someone arrested for getting into a fight, making a scene in public or causing a nuisance in Texas, chances are that you witnessed an incident of disorderly conduct. Under Texas law, certain actions which are classified as disorderly conduct may be met with arrest, incarceration and prosecution.
The crime of disorderly conduct applies to a wide range of illegal behaviors. In some cases, these actions may be violent while other actions seem relatively more peaceful. Read on to find out how disorderly conduct cases are handled in the state of Texas.
What Is Disorderly Conduct?
To put it simply, Texas laws state that disorderly conduct refers to any action that creates an unreasonable and significant breach of the peace, disturbs public order or which infringes upon the rights or privacy of others.
Of course, this definition can be applied to many different actions. According to Chapter 42 of the Texas Penal Code, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct if they:
- Use profane or obscene language or gestures in public which disturb the peace
- Create a chemical odor which is offensive in public
- Threaten or abuse another person in public
- Makes unreasonable noise in a public place
- Fight in public
- Discharge or display a firearm in public in a manner that is threatening or disturbing
- Expose their genitals or anus in public in an attempt to disturb or offend another person
- Look into private areas, such as showers or changing rooms, for lewd purposes
Disorderly conduct is a type of “catch-all” term that can be applied to nearly any behavior which is offensive, disturbing or threatening to the public peace.
- John and Jake meet at a bar and get into a dispute over John’s ex-girlfriend. They get into a fistfight. They may both be arrested and charged with disorderly conduct as well as other charges. This applies even though they were in a bar, which is considered a public place for the purposes of prosecution.
- Alicia is downtown one night and she decides to drop her pants and “moon” several passing cars. This could potentially lead to an arrest on disorderly conduct charges, since she exposed herself in public, even if she wasn’t intending to be lewd or disturbing.
- Alan is at a public pool and is standing by the women’s shower and changing area. He keeps peeking into the door until he is spotted. He may be arrested for disorderly conduct because he is presumably looking into the private area for lewd purposes. However, if he was looking in to check on his wife or child, he may not be convicted of the crime if he can prove he was not being lewd in his actions.
- Ramon has some friends over on Saturday night. They are listening to loud music until 2 AM. The neighbors call the police to complain. The police arrive to issue a warning but the party starts back up with loud music as soon as the police leave. Ramon may be charged with disorderly conduct because he was playing music loud enough to cause a disturbance to others at that time of night. He may be charged even though he was playing the music in his private residence instead of a public place.
According the Texas Penal Code, most disorderly conduct charges arise from incidents which take place in public or near a private residence.
For the purposes of the law, a public place is any area which is not a private residence or building. This can include:
- A downtown street
- A restaurant, bar or shopping mall
- A church
- A school or college campus
Disorderly conduct charges may also be applied for actions which occur “near a private residence”, according to the law. For example, a person who exposes themselves on their front lawn is technically on their own property but they may still be charged because their actions are happening near their residence, in full view of other people.
Playing loud music in a private residence is a unique case. If the music is over 85 decibels and the person playing the music has been warned to lower the volume by the police, they may still be charged even if they are in their own private home. This is because the sound can carry to their neighbor’s residences and can therefore be considered to be “near a private residence.”
In the state of Texas, a first time conviction for disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor. This is punishable by:
- A $500 fine
In some cases, a judge may order a person convicted of disorderly conduct to attend counseling or make restitution payments instead of, or in addition to, the $500 fine.
A person who is charged with disorderly conduct for discharging a firearm in a public place or displaying a firearm in public in an alarming manner may have their charge upgraded to a Class B misdemeanor. This is punishable by:
- Up to 180 days in county jail
- A fine of up to $2000