As a criminal defense attorney in St. Petersburg for over 20 years, disorderly conduct charges are my specialty. Like any other large city with bars and restaurants that sell alcohol, these types of cases are very common. They are also some of the easiest charges to get dismissed. I have a proven track record of success in getting them dropped. As long as you have not done anything aggravated (like hurt someone or use racist language), my success rate on getting these charges dropped is over 90%. In fact, I checked my records and could not find the last time that I was not successful with getting the charge dropped!
The reason for this success is that usually these incidents are aberrations in my client’s life. I don’t represent people that get arrested often. Most of my clients have never been in trouble and the incident can be blamed solely on drinking too much. Many of my clients are young professionals who are out in downtown St. Pete. Some have even complained to me that they might have been drugged because there was no way that the amount of alcohol should have created that effect. Regardless of the facts, my clients are apologetic and concerned about their record. To a young prosecutor fresh out of law school, my requests ring true. These young attorneys know that they or their friends might be in a similar situation, so they are lenient about dropping the cases.
People who have been arrested still need a lawyer to handle the case and speak to the prosecutor. If you sit back and do nothing, the charges do not get magically dismissed. You will need an advocate who can give your side of the story to the prosecutor to ensure that you keep your record clean and get the charge dropped.
What is Disorderly Conduct?
According to Florida law, disorderly conduct can be found by acts that corrupt the public morals, outrage the public sense of decency, affect the peace and quiet, or brawling or fighting. See Fla. Stat. § 877.03. This charge is basically a “catch all” that permits law enforcement to arrest you and extricate you from the situation. When the police don’t know what else to do, but have decided they have had enough, they allege disorderly conduct. Police often interchangeably use disorderly conduct and disorderly intoxication under Fla. Stat. § 856.011. So, if you are charged with one, you also likely could have been charged with the other. There is no difference in the way that I defend either charge.
Examples of Disorderly Conduct in St. Petersburg
Almost all the disorderly conduct cases that I see come from downtown St. Petersburg late at night. The most common type of case is an intoxicated person who has been asked to leave and the security calls in the police. These cases usually result in a disorderly conduct or disorderly intoxication charge.
The next most common disorderly conduct case arises from a drunken fight or argument. The police are out all over downtown and as soon as a fight breaks out, they are there within seconds. Even if no one wants to prosecute for the fight, the police can still arrest you for disorderly conduct.
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct is a second degree misdemeanor under Florida Statute § 877.03. It is punishable by up to 60 days in jail or 6 months of probation and a fine of $500. Even though disorderly conduct charges are the lowest level of misdemeanor in Florida, the most important repercussion is the effect it will have on one’s criminal record. A person’s criminal record is often much more important than a $500 fine. My clients have legitimate concerns about how this will be perceived on background searches or to their employer.
Defenses to Disorderly Conduct Charges
Disorderly conduct is highly defensible, which is the reason why I am able to get so many charges dismissed. A defense to a charge based on purely verbal conduct is that it is protected by the freedom of speech under the First Amendment. Also, being loud, annoying or belligerent is insufficient to base a conviction. Finally, if there is a fight, you can always argue self defense.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Lawyer?
I charge a flat fee of $1500 to handle disorderly conduct cases in St. Petersburg. Although the prosecutor has 90 days by law to charge you, I normally can get the cases dropped in a month. It is very easy to hire me and we can do everything over the phone and email. I can email you a contract to sign electronically and payment can be made via credit card.
How I Get Disorderly Conduct Charges Dropped
The reality is that most people who get arrested for disorderly conduct drank too much and got out of control. The prosecutors, police, and my clients all realize this. But, because the charge is victimless, all you need to do is give a reason why you should get a break. So, when I have a case involving a bar or restaurant, I always call the owner or manager and make sure that they don’t want my client prosecuted. Almost all business owners know that having their customers prosecuted is bad for business. Plus, they normally don’t want to get involved in a criminal case that costs them time and money. If alcohol was a factor in the incident, I have my clients go to AA a few times (which is free) or see a counselor. The prosecutors often just want to make sure that the person does not have a drinking problem. Finally, I get a brief background statement from my client. If he or she is married with a young child and has a good job, that is important to know. Maybe the person was in town for a wedding and got disoriented. Whatever the case may be, it is important to tell the human side of the story. This formula has proven to work.
Hire a Local Criminal Defense Attorney
Perhaps the most important step that you can take after an arrest in St. Petersburg for disorderly conduct is to hire a local Disorderly Conduct Attorney. Those of us who live and practice law in the area can often pull strings and use our connections to our clients’ advantage. We know the bars, the temperament of the police, and the prosecutors by name. Getting arrested is never a good thing, but with a little strategy, my clients get the charges dismissed and can move on with their lives. If you find yourself in the position of needing a lawyer, please contact me immediately for a free consultation. The sooner that we implement our strategy, the better your chance for success.