Disorderly Conduct

Pennsylvania Disorderly Conduct Attorney

Disorderly conduct is found in the Pennsylvania crimes code at 18 Pa.C.S. §5503. Disorderly conduct is typically graded as a summary offense. However, Disorderly conduct can be graded as a “misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist.”

Disorderly conduct is punishable by a maximum penalty of 90 days incarceration and/or a $300.00 fine. Do not let the jail time scare you. 90 days incarceration is the legal maximum penalty a judge is permitted to hand down. From my experience, incarceration is almost never handed down for Disorderly conduct. In fact, in my entire career as an Assistant District Attorney and as a criminal defense attorney, I have never seen jail time handed down in a Disorderly conduct case, other than in situations where the person was incarcerated on other charges the prosecutor pled the case out to a “time served sentence” on the Disorderly conduct charge.

*Please note that a defendant can also serve 90 days probation on a Disorderly conduct charge.

In Pennsylvania, the following types of behavior constitute Disorderly conduct:

  • threatening behavior such as fighting words;
  • unreasonable noise;
  • obscene language;
  • creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.
Summary Disorderly Conduct is a “Catch-all” Offense in Pennsylvania

In my opinion, Disorderly conduct is one of the most important criminal statutes in Pennsylvania. It enables criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors to plead down and get rid of the “bad cases.” Disorderly conduct is many times charged by police as a lesser offense or “back up” offense to more serious charges. §5503(a)(4) of the Disorderly conduct statute reads [you are guilty of Disorderly conduct if you] “create [sic] a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.” This section serves as a “catch-all” for defense attorneys and prosecutors. Most crimes fit this definition, therefore, it enables us to legally “plead down” a wide array of cases to Disorderly conduct. From my experience, police and prosecutors do not want to drop cases. At a minimum they want to get a Disorderly conduct citation out of the deal.

Disorderly Conduct Citations

Disorderly conduct can also be charged as the sole offense in a prosecution. For instance, say two guys start screaming at each other in a public street and cause a scene. A police officer sees this conduct and cites the two men for Disorderly conduct. The officer writes the tickets for $300 each. This is an example of a person being cited for Disorderly conduct.

Will Summary Disorderly Conduct Show Up on my Criminal Record?

The answer to that question is “it depends.” If you were charged with misdemeanor or felony offenses and take disorderly conduct as part of a plea deal, then yes, Disorderly conduct will show up on your criminal record. Please note that the lead charges will show up on your record as well, but the “rap sheet” will say “nolle prossed” or “dismissed” next to the charges that were dropped. Below is an abbreviated example of what this would look like on the rap sheet.

Ex:  
John Smith DOB 07/07/1977  
Theft By Unlawful Taking-Nolle Prossed
Receiving Stolen Property-Nolle Prossed
Disorderly Conduct-Guilty


If you were written a citation for Disorderly conduct, it will not show up on an FBI background check or a Pennsylvania State Police background check. However, anyone with a personal computer can find this citation. Any PA citation that is not expunged can be accessed through Pennsylvania’s web portal system. Today, employers are hiring private background check companies that have systems that will find these citations. Therefore, the answer to the question is that your Disorderly conduct citation may show up on your record if you apply for a job. It depends on the company or organization and how in-depth the go on their background checking process. In my legal opinion, if you are cited with Disorderly conduct you should always plead not guilty to the citation and fight it. If you are found not guilty or the citation is dismissed, you then must file an expungement petition or have an attorney file it on your behalf in the Court of Common Pleas. Once Disorderly conduct is expunged it will be removed from Pennsylvania’s web portal system.

If you are cited or charged with Disorderly conduct, contact Jason R. Antoine, Pennsylvania Disorderly conduct attorney for a free consultation to determine how to fight this citation.