Disorderly Conduct In Illinois Can Be A Misdemeanor Or A Felony
In Illinois the criminal charge of disorderly conduct can be a low level misdemeanor offense or a low level felony.
Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct:
|Class||Type||720 ILCS 5/|
|C Misdemeanor||alarm or disturb||26-1(a)(1)|
|B Misdemeanor||false report (MC/DD)||26-1(a)(8)|
|B Misdemeanor||false report||26-1(a)(10)|
|A Misdemeanor||false report (public safety||26-1(a)(5)|
|A Misdemeanor||peeping tom||26-1(a)(11)|
Illinois Misdemeanor Sentencing Range
In Illinois there are 3 classes or levels of criminal misdemeanors. They are:
|Class||Penalty Range||Maximum Fine|
|A||less than 1 year||not to exceed $2,500|
|B||not more than 6 mths||not to exceed $1,500|
|C||not more than 30 days||not to exceed $1,500|
Alarm or Disturbing Disorderly Conduct
The most common type of disorderly conduct charge in Illinois is the Class C Misdemeanor criminalizing any conduct that is alarm or disturbing.
The exact language of 720 ILCS 5/26-1(a)(1) provides that,
Conduct that is considered “alarm or disturbing” is at the threshold of the kind of conduct that society criminalizes. This is lowest level of behavior you can be sent to jail for committing.
This is a class C misdemeanor. Which means, that in Illinois you could be sent to jail for 30 days!
Granted, that rarely happens. And most people serve a form of probation or court supervision with 30 mandatory hours of community service.
Examples of Disorderly Conduct
Some examples in Illinois of behavior considered to be disorderly conduct include:
- Public Drunkenness
- Loud or Unreasonable Noise
- Obscene Language
- Abusive or Harassing Language
- Threats to Harm or Kill
- Public Urination
The bigger problem with this crime is that it is easy to get arrested and charged for it. This is usually what you get arrested for when you the police can’t charge you with something more serious.
Police looking for an arrest to “get someone off the street” are likely to turn this charge. This is because the criminalized behavior can be defined so broadly.
Felony Disorderly Conduct
|Class||Type||720 ILCS 5/|
|4 Felony||false fire alarm||26-1(a)(2)|
|4 Felony||false report of offense||26-1(a)(4)|
|4 Felony||false school event||26-1(a)(3.5)|
|4 Felony||false 911 alarm||26-1(a)(6)|
|4 Felony||false DCFS report||26-1(a)(7)|
|4 Felony||false ambulance call||26-1(a)(9)|
|3 Felony||false bomb threat||26-1(a)(3)|
In general the felony version of disorderly conduct criminalizes false police reports, bomb threats, and general public threats of any kind.
The Case Law Helps Define Disorderly Conduct
This is one of those areas where prior cases help us get a better idea of the kind of behavior that can get a person in trouble.
In Illinois, the clear history of the law is to arrest an individual for words or acts that were intentionally and likely to induce violence from others. These are so-called “fighting words”.
See In Re B.C., 176 Ill. 2d 536, 680 N.E.2d 1355 (1997).
In this case, the defendant displayed a hand drawing depicting acts of violence against African-Americans. He also displayed symbols of “Supreme White Power”. He did this in a threatening manner.
Those were fighting “words”.
However, not every act of vulgarity is going to reach the level of fighting words.
Here, the accused yelled from across the street to an African-American. He yelled:
How long you going to be a shoe-shine boy?
In this case, the court said:
We conclude that the speaker’s “fighting words” must contain either an explicit or implied threat and that vulgarities and epithets do not suffice to trigger the State’s prosecutorial powers and criminal sanctions.
Yes, the court said this was vulgar and offensive. Yet, it did not amount to disorderly conduct. This conclusion was reached because there was no implied threat.
Acts Can Be Fighting Words
Sometimes fighting words can be an act not actual words:
People v. Duncan, 259. App. 3d 308, 631 N.E.2d 803 (4th Dist. 1994).
Defendant Duncan was at a McDonald’s restaurant. He was in the eating area where a lady was waiting for her male companion to bring over the food. The defendant urinated in the eating area. This so alarmed and disturbed the lady that her male companion rushed over and physically confronted the defendant.
Defendant Duncan did not say anything to the lady or her companion. However, peeing in the eating area of a restaurant caused a fight.
Court said this was disorderly conduct.
Police Officers Cannot Be The Victim
In the case of The City of Chicago v. Blakemore, 15 Ill. App. 3d 994, 305 N.E.2d 687 (1st Dist. 1973) the court said police officers cannot be victims of disorderly conduct. The case-law is clear on this point. This is what the court said:
“Words [or other conduct] addressed to an officer in an insolent manner do not without any other overt act tend to breach the peace because it is the sworn duty and obligation of the officer not to breach the peace and beyond this to conduct himself so as to keep others from so doing.” City of Chicago v. Blakemore
This just means, that is the job of police people to keep the peace. When they are on duty they can’t be a victim of not having something they themselves must create.
- In re D.W., 150 Ill.App.3d 729 (4th Dist. 1986) (actual breach of the peace required)
- People v. Davis, 82 Ill.2d 534 (1980) (threat need not be immediate but indirect is sufficient)
- People v. Bradshaw, 116 Ill.App.3d 421 (4th Dist. 1983) (actual breach required, language which provokes no response is insufficient)
- People v. Trester, 96 Ill.App.3d 553 (4th Dist. 1981) (police must show restraint, officer can’t be victim of disorderly conduct)
- People v. Douglas, 29 Ill.App.3d 738 (1st Dist. 1975) (cops can’t be the victim, victim must come from the crowd and crowd has to be effected by the conduct)
- People v. Norris, 15 Ill.App.3d 994 (1st Dist. 1973) (arguing with police and abusive language towards them alone is not disorderly conduct)
- People v. Pope, 66 Ill.App.3d 303 (4th Dist. 1978) (shooting an animal may be disorderly conduct).
- In re B.C., 176 Ill.2d 536 (1997) (language alone may rise to the level of disorderly conduct, gist of the crime is in the unreasonableness of the act rather than any direct targeted specific intent)
- People v. Duncan, 259 Ill.App.3d 308 (4th Dist. 1994) (urinating at a McDonald’s might be a disorderly conduct)
- People v. Lambert, 47 Ill.App.3d 151 (1st Dist. 1964) (defendant through his plan, motive, actions, conduct, garb, signs, banners and most vicious leaflet was intended to incite a major demonstration in one of the Loop’s busiest sections, this was a sufficient public disturbance)