Maryland Disorderly Conduct Attorney
Disorderly conduct, also referred to as disturbing the peace, encompasses different versions of generally the same behavior according to Maryland law. Both are two sides of the same basic catchall charge that are commonly used when police believe that a suspect’s behavior justifies arrest, but they may not have technically broken any other law. A Maryland disorderly conduct lawyer can explain what you can expect from these charges.
Common Disorderly Conduct Charges
This offense can involve behavior that is viewed as being too noisy, picketing or protesting, or even building a bonfire on the beach, which is specifically prohibited during certain hours. Disorderly conduct laws essentially criminalize behavior that is likely to disturb or annoy others, including law enforcement officers, which can sometimes make this a very subjective offense.
Though there are a few exceptions, the maximum sentence for this offense is 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. But sometimes the actual charge for disorderly conduct can be an underlying offense that accompanies other behavior such as destroying public property or assault, both of which are more serious charges onto which disorderly conduct can be added. Depending on the circumstances, multiple disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace offenses can be charged at the same time against the same suspect. If you have questions about the charges you are facing, consult with a Maryland disorderly conduct lawyer.
Disorderly Conduct Laws in Maryland
According to Maryland statutes, any of the following behaviors can constitute disorderly conduct:
- Obstructing a person’s access to a public place;
- Exhibiting offensive actions that others find disturbing, including making an obscene gesture;
- Failing to obey “move along” instructions of law enforcement officers; and
- Making too much noise or committing other offensive actions while on private property – though the standard usually involves behavior that can be easily seen or heard by others not on the property.
A “public place” generally includes any location that is not a home or office, which includes a restaurant, shop, street, sidewalk, public building, school, park, or bus station. As a general rule, someone cannot be convicted of disturbing the peace in Maryland unless their conduct disturbs others.
Unlawful Picketing and Assembly
Maryland law also makes it a crime to assemble with others in a manner intended to disturb other people’s rights to calmness, either in public or in their homes. Its purpose is to prevent people from picketing residences – and some businesses – with intent to harass the occupants or affect traffic to-and-from the picketed location.
There are some exemptions where it is not an offense:
- Picketing in a labor dispute
- Picketing a person’s home when it is also a place of business
- Holding a public meeting on premises that are commonly used as places for discussion of public matters
For example, striking laborers who picket a business owner’s home-office will not be charged as long as they remain orderly. But those who picket in front of a neighbor’s home because they object to a neighbor’s house renovation could be prosecuted.
Failure to Leave a Public Building
It is also a crime in Maryland to fail to leave a public building after being asked to leave, when the defendant has no lawful business in any of the following:
- Places of business (such as restaurants, shops, shopping centers, bars, stores)
- Public buildings and parking lots
- Hotels and motels
- Places of public worship
- Elementary, middle, and high schools, and institutions of higher education
- Sports arenas, theaters, or other places functioning as public buildings
Public Intoxication and Other Disturbing the Peace Penalties
According to Maryland statutes it is also a crime to drink alcohol or be intoxicated in public. Disturbing the peace is charged as a misdemeanor. Conviction means a jail sentence of up to 60 days and/or a fine of up to $500. This punishment also applies for public intoxication charges.
Unlawful picketing or assembly is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine up to $100. Failing to leave a public building draws a sentence of no more than six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.