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St. Petersburg Disorderly Conduct Attorneys

Breach of Peace

States throughout the country have limits on what people can do and say while in a public space. Although the limitations can seem minor, violating them could mean criminal charges. When a person commits an act that qualifies as disorderly conduct or breach of peace in Florida, they could face jail time and fines. Having a strong defense and a qualified lawyer could make the difference in your future.

If you are facing breach of peace charges, contact a St. Petersburg disorderly conduct defense attorney at Morris Law Firm, P.A. Our legal team can help you fight the charges and work to have them reduced, or even dropped. Your future is important, and Morris Law Firm, P.A. can make a difference.

Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout the St. Petersburg area. Call (727) 592-5885 to schedule a free case evaluation today.

What is Considered Disorderly Conduct?

In Florida, laws against disorderly conduct are used to regulate personal conduct in public spaces, such as streets, parks, and other public venues. According to Florida Statute Annotated § 877.03, disorderly conduct acts are “of a nature to corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them.”

Some common examples of disorderly conduct include:

  • Brawling or fighting
  • Loitering
  • Loud or unreasonable noise
  • Obstructing traffic
  • Rioting
  • Disturbing the peace
  • Obscene or explicit language
  • Protesting
  • Disturbing an assembly, such as a government meeting
  • Intoxicated in public

Because the law is so broad, there are a plethora of acts that could be considered disorderly conduct. The law is subjective, and it often is up to a police officer to determine if a person is committing an offense that could fall under that category.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct in Florida

Under Florida law, disorderly conduct or breach of peace is a second-degree misdemeanor. This could mean up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Additionally, a person could face up to six months of probation time.

For first-time offenders, the penalties could be decreased, depending on the circumstances of the offense. However, if the offense involved some sort of violent act or potential threats toward police, even a first-time offender could face jail time.

In addition, the court can impose whichever penalties it sees fit for the crime. For instance, if a person is charged with disorderly conduct for being intoxicated in public, a court may impose alcohol awareness classes or community service.

Possible Defenses to Breach of Peace Charges

Because this law is so subjective, sometimes the interpretations can be challenged in court. This means there could be several defenses to a disorderly conduct charge, depending on the circumstances of the incident.

For example, if a person is arrested and charged with disorderly conduct for explicit language, they could challenge the charge by citing the First Amendment. Loud speech and profanity generally do not warrant disorderly conduct charges. However, some words known as “fighting words” are not protected.

Although police officers do not like to hear obscene language being directed at them, generally speaking, it is not a crime. Yelling at police officers or using obscene language also could be challenged, depending on the facts of the case. If the language was threatening, however, it may constitute an offense.

In some cases of fighting or brawling, self-defense could be a valid defense to the charge. The defense only would apply if the person did not start the fight or altercation and had to rely on aggressive acts to protect themselves from greater harm.

Disorderly Intoxication

Disorderly intoxication (commonly referred to as public intoxication or disturbing the peace) is a very common criminal offense in Florida. While the crime is a misdemeanor, repeat convictions can ultimately lead to an alleged offender being committed to a treatment center.

Furthermore, a conviction for disorderly intoxication will appear on a person’s criminal record. The presence of such offenses on a basic background check can often be a red flag that results in substantial hardship when it comes to obtaining employment, housing, or professional licensing.

Disorderly Intoxication Charges

In order to convict an alleged offender of disorderly intoxication under Florida Statute § 856.011, the state must prove either of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The alleged offender was intoxicated and he or she endangered the safety of another person or property; or
  • The alleged offender was intoxicated or drank any alcoholic beverage in a public place or in or upon a public conveyance and he or she caused a public disturbance.

Intoxication is defined under Chapter 29.1 of the Florida Jury Instructions as meaning “more than merely being under the influence of an alcoholic beverage.” It is defined as meaning that the alleged offender “must have been so affected from the drinking of an alcoholic beverage as to have lost or been deprived of the normal control of either his or her body or his or her mental faculties, or both.” Intoxication is synonymous with “drunk.”

Disorderly Intoxication Penalties in St. Petersburg

Disorderly intoxication is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

If an alleged offender has been convicted of this offense three times in the preceding 12 months, that person can be deemed a habitual offender. The court can then commit the alleged offender to an appropriate treatment center for a period of up to 60 days.

The definitions in disorderly intoxication cases can be extremely important, as some of the most effective defenses often rely on a prosecutor’s inability to meet the statutory requirements necessary for a conviction.

Some common defenses in these cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Lack of evidence of intoxication;
  • No endangerment to safety of people or property;
  • Alleged incident did not occur in public place or in or upon a public conveyance; or
  • Alleged incident did not constitute public disturbance.

Florida Disorderly Intoxication Resources

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) | Pinellas County Intergroup, Inc. — AA describes itself as “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.” Visit this website to learn more about the 12 steps of AA, the 12 traditions of AA, and the different kinds of meetings. You can also view the dates and times for meetings in the Pinellas County area.

Pinellas County Intergroup Central Office 
American Business Center 
8340 Ulmerton Road 
Suite 220 
Largo, FL 33771 
(727) 530-0415

Jernigan v. State, 566 So. 2d 39 (Fla. 1st DCA 1990) — In May 1988, Carl Jernigan, a dispatcher for the City of Alachua Police Department, went to the police station while intoxicated and distraught over a relationship with a female dispatcher. He was asked to leave but returned later, throwing down his keys and sunglasses. When the police chief told Jernigan that he would be arrested if he did not leave, a scuffle ensued, and Jernigan was arrested and later convicted for disorderly intoxication and resisting arrest with violence. The First District Court of Appeal, however, ruled that in order to sustain a conviction for disorderly intoxication, the state had to prove not only that a person is intoxicated but that the public safety is endangered. The Court reversed the conviction for disorderly intoxication but affirmed the conviction for resisting arrest.

Contact a Defense Lawyer

Morris Law Firm, P.A. represents clients throughout the St. Petersburg area. We can provide a complete evaluation of your case when you call (727) 592-5885 or fill out an online contact form to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

Meet The Attorneys Melinda Morris & Seth Shapiro

Why Choose Our Law Firm?

See the Difference Our Service Provides
    Melinda Morris is a former prosecutor and has handled thousands of criminal cases from investigation through sentencing enabling us to identify weaknesses in the State’s case against you.
    We never settle for the easiest outcome or the typical result. We know how to negotiate with the State Attorney and we will work to get you the best possible outcome.
    Melinda Morris has practiced criminal law for over 20 years. Our clients trust advice that comes from experience in nearly every type of criminal case.
    We will know every client’s story because we will take the time to listen and understand. You will work with your attorney one-on-one at every stage of the process.
    You will have the cell phone number of your attorney. Your attorney will directly return your call, email, or text to answer your pressing questions.
    The government is wasting no time in trying to prove your guilt, a proactive defense is imperative. Prompt and decisive action from your defense attorney is of critical importance.

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