Case Studies: Disorderly Conduct

Director Avoids Disorderly Conduct Conviction With Self-Defense Assertion

A communications director retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after police arrested him on a charge of disorderly conduct. The charge arose out of a parent dispute at a soccer game. The parents had been cheering the sides on throughout the game, our client perhaps more so than other parents. The parent of a child on the other team objected to our client's loud voice and excited demeanor, to which parents of children on the same team had grown used to. Our client, unfortunately, said something less than polite to the objecting parent, who said something even less polite back. Our client construed the objecting parent's slight as a threat of harm, to which our client responded by shoving the other parent backward away from our client, whom the other parent had approached. Unfortunately, the other parent fell backward over a chair, to much embarrassment and minor injury. Our strategic defense approach was to prepare to present testimony of these details, acknowledging the unfortunate nature of the exchange but showing that our client had reasonable cause to believe that the other parent was about to strike him and that our client acted in self-defense. At the same time, we helped our client pursue a conciliation strategy to show the prosecution that our client had reduced the likelihood of repeat events. The other parent and our client soon exchanged apologies, the other parent simultaneously indicating that he had no desire to testify in support of criminal charges. Recognizing the minor and disputed nature of the incident, the prosecutor dismissed the charges.

Excavating Contractor Defeats Offensive Language Disorderly Conduct Charge

An excavating contractor retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after police arrested him on an offensive language disorderly conduct charge. The contractor had been hauling his bulldozer to a worksite when police stopped him for a broken taillight. Amused and annoyed that officers would pull his big hauler over alongside a busy road simply for a broken taillight, our client used a few choice expletives without in any way resisting or obstructing the officers. The officers warned our client not to use profanities or offensive language in their presence, to which our client responded with even greater amusement and annoyance and colorful, profane, and offensive language. At no time did our client do anything else other than comply with the officers' requests, instructions, and demands. The officers nonetheless took him to the station for booking on the disorderly persons charge. Our defense strategy was to highlight to the jury that our client was never any threat to the officers' safety, nor did he delay in any way their performance of their official duties. Our strategy also highlighted the natural surprise our client and any other motorist express under the circumstances and the American tradition and First Amendment right for how to express that surprise and annoyance. Our trial presentation, and the colorful testimony of our big-character client, amused the judge and jury, resulting in the jury's acquittal.

College Sophomore Avoids Disorderly Conduct Conviction for Loud Noises

The parents of a college sophomore attending a New Jersey private college retained the Lento Law Firm's Criminal Defense Team after local authorities charged the freshman with disorderly conduct. The charges arose out of our client's fraternity activities, disturbing neighbors. Our client resided in the fraternity building off campus, on a street lined with other residences. The fraternity regularly held parties and celebrations, especially around on-campus sporting events. When the fraternity members imbibed, which happened frequently, those celebrations tended to grow in volume. On the disputed occasion, the fraternity had been playing loud music out its windows for partiers on its lawns. As the evening turned to night, neighbors had asked the fraternity to tone it down, which did not happen. As the night wore on, neighbors called the police, who arrested our client, who happened at the moment of their arrival to be on the fraternity rooftop blowing a loud horn. Police had been to the fraternity so frequently, and neighbors had complained so often that the prosecutor was determined to make an example of our client. Our investigation of these facts and the city's noise ordinance raised questions over the possibility of prevailing on a factual defense of the charge. So our client instead approved a mitigation approach, apologizing to the neighbors, performing voluntary community service, and ensuring that the fraternity curtailed all noise at least while the charges remained pending. The prosecutor subsequently agreed to a dismissal of the charge on this evidence shared at a pretrial conference.

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