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Disorderly Conduct

Are you afraid that having a Disorderly Conduct on your record will prevent you from getting into college, getting a good job, or even get you fired?

These are all legitimate concerns! Don't risk losing what you have earned because the police gave you a citation for Disorderly Conduct.

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In order to be found guilty of a Disorderly Conduct (summary offense or misdemeanor), the prosecutor must prove that you:

  1. created a hazardous or physically offensive condition which served no legitimate purpose
  2. used obscene language or used obscene gestures
  3. make unreasonable noise, or
  4. engage in fighting, threatening, or violent and tumultuous behavior

Below is a brief overview of Pennsylvania law regarding Disorderly Conduct offenses.

1. Hazardous Condition/Physically Offensive Condition

A defendant may create a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor. A “hazardous condition” is a condition that involves danger or risk. Commonwealth v. Roth, 366 Pa.Super. 575, 582, 531 A.2d 1133, 1137 (1987).

Courts have stated that “Although a precise definition of a “physically offensive condition” is elusive, this term encompasses direct assaults on the physical senses of members of the public. A defendant may create such a condition if she sets off a “stink bomb”, strews rotting garbage in public places, or shines blinding lights in the eyes of others. See Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 250.2 commentary at 347 (Official Draft and Revised Comments 1980).

2. Obscene Language or Gestures

Next, a person can be guilty of disorderly conduct if the use obscene language or make obscene gestures. Courts have interpreted obscene to mean sexual or deviant in nature.

3. Unreasonable Noise

Third, a person can be charged with disorderly conduct if they make unreasonable noise. In disorderly cases based on one's making unreasonable noise, Courts have looked to language content only to infer whether the speaker intended to cause public annoyance, alarm. However, intent cannot be inferred from the officer's annoyance when a person merely disagrees with an officer and is shouting his disagreement to his neighbor.” Commonwealth v. Gilbert, 674 A.2d at 287.

Pennsylvania law defines unreasonable noise as ‘not fitting or proper in respect to the conventional standards of organized society or a legally constituted community”. In Commonwealth v. Gilbert, the police Officer said that half the neighborhood came out to view the verbal “ruckus,” However, the Court held that there was “no evidence...that the level of noise was inconsistent with neighborhood tolerance or standards.

Regarding “volume” Courts have found unreasonable noise for example in Commonwealth v. Alpha Epsilon Pi, 373 Pa.Super. 178, 540 A.2d 580 (1988) when sound system noise from a frat house party lasted hours, continued past 11:00 p.m., and could be heard in the residential neighborhood a block away); And also in, Commonwealth v. Vesel,751 A.2d 676 (Pa.Super.2000) when an ejected patron's loud banging on tavern door with fists and tire iron after 2:00 a.m.

4. Threatening or Tumultuous Behavior

Finally, a person is guilty of disorderly conduct if they engage in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior.

Courts found fighting or threatening behavior in Commonwealth v. Lopata, 754 A.2d 685 (Pa.Super.2000) (student in high school cafeteria hit a student in the arm, knocked over a chair, swung arms violently and yelled as he was escorted to the principal's office was guilty of disorderly conduct). Also, in Commonwealth v. Deluca, 597 A.2d the defendant was physically very close to the victim during the confrontation, the defendant touched the victim in an aggressive manner, defendant invited the victim to step outside so that they may engage in a physical fight and twice called the victim a vulgar name and stated he was going to punch the victim in the mouth. The Court found that behavior constitutes violent, fighting, threatening or tumultuous behavior.


Don’t leave your future in the hands of the legal system. Fight the Disorderly Conduct charge and ensure you aren’t penalized for not breaking the law. Whether you are a student at the University of Scranton or just a person looking for a job; you need an experience Scranton attorney to defend you. Call ROGAN LAW today for a free consultation and protect your legal rights!