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What Type of Evidence Is Needed to Establish Disorderly Conduct?

Posted on July 19, 2023 in assault & violent crimes

Disorderly conduct, often referred to as disturbing the peace, is a crime in Arizona that may be charged on its own or stacked on top of other charges, such as drug and alcohol crimes. During a disorderly conduct case, the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant committed the elements of this offense beyond a reasonable doubt, meaning with clear and convincing evidence.

A Disorderly Act Was Committed

The two main elements that are required to prove a disorderly conduct case are an act recognized as disorderly and intent to disturb the peace. Arizona Revised Statutes, Section 13-2904, is Arizona’s disorderly conduct law. The definition is to engage in any of the following with intent to disturb the peace of another person or knowledge of doing so:

  • Fighting, violent or seriously disruptive behavior
  • Making an unreasonable amount of noise
  • Using abusive or offensive language or gestures against someone that are likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation from that person
  • Making any protracted commotion, utterance or display with intent to prevent a lawful meeting, gathering or procession to proceed
  • Refusing to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to keep the public safe in proximity to an emergency or hazard, such as a fire
  • Recklessly handling, displaying or discharging a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument, such as a firearm

It must be proven by the prosecutor that the defendant committed one or more of these acts using evidence such as eyewitness statements or surveillance video footage. If the defense of “wrong defendant” is used, the prosecutor may need to show that the suspect arrested is the person who engaged in the disorderly act.

The Defendant Had Intent to Disturb the Peace

The second element of proof in a disorderly conduct case in Arizona is intent or knowledge of disturbing the peace. The defendant must have intentionally wanted to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person or known that he or she was disturbing the peace and committed the act anyway. A defendant can be convicted of disorderly conduct even if someone’s peace was not disturbed, if he or she intended to do so with the disruptive act.

Defenses Against Disorderly Conduct Charges

Since the prosecutor has the burden of proof, it is the defense’s job to show that the prosecution has failed to provide enough evidence to establish the elements of disorderly conduct with proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A disorderly conduct defense attorney could use several defense strategies to protect the defendant from a conviction, including:

  • Mistaken identity/wrong defendant
  • Alibi at the time of the incident
  • No illegal or prohibited act committed
  • Lack of intent or knowledge of disturbing the peace
  • Legal justification, such as self-defense
  • Insufficient evidence 
  • Violation of constitutional rights

Disorderly conduct is typically charged as a misdemeanor crime in Arizona but can be a class 6 felony if it involves recklessly handling, displaying or discharging a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. If convicted of this felony, the defendant faces four months to two years in prison, three years of probation and a fine of up to $150,000. A misdemeanor conviction carries a sentence of up to six months in jail, three years of probation and a $2,500 fine. 

If you or a loved one has been accused of disorderly conduct in Arizona, do not hesitate to contact AZ Defenders to discuss the elements of your case and a potential defense with an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer.