The Colorado Disorderly Conduct statute, C.R.S. 18-9-106, like the crime of Harassment, is a reflection of how we have willingly given up a portion of our freedom simply because we have forgotten how to treat one another with respect. There are pros and cons to laws which attempt to regulate common courtesy, but before discussing them we need to know how Disorderly Conduct is defined in Colorado. Read about Constitutional defenses to Disorderly Conduct.
The Definition of Disorderly Conduct
A person is charged with Disorderly Conduct in Jefferson or Douglas County when he or she: intentionally makes an offensive utterance, makes unreasonable noise in public, fights, or discharges a firearm in a public place, or displays a deadly weapon (or a likeness of a weapon) in order to alarm others. Disorderly Conduct is charged in Denver, Arapahoe, and Adams County as a class 1 petty offense, and under some circumstances as a more serious class 2 or 3 misdemeanor. This is an abbreviated version of the Disorderly Conduct statute which contains several exceptions not important to our discussion.
Most people agree that personal conduct found within the Disorderly Conduct statute is wrong. Lawmakers pass laws to make places such as Littleton, Aurora, and Westminster peaceful communities. One of the late Paul Harvey’s popular quotes is “self-government won’t work without self-discipline.” This is not only true in government, but is equally true when it comes to how we regulate our personal behavior. Men and women involved in hurtful arguments freequently call police, which results in charges of Domestic Violence Disorderly Conduct or Domestic Violence Harassment. When we fail to show respect and courtesy to others, and when our primarily focus is our personal rights, lawmakers will attempt to enter as the referee, but there is a downside.
Subjective Attempts to Regulate Interpersonal Contact
When looking at the language of the Colorado Disorderly Conduct statue the problem becomes clear. It is filled with highly subjective terms open to interpretation. Words such as: offensive and unreasonable have different meanings to everyone. Add to that the heightened emotions of people in conflict, and the first person who calls the police usually gets the other guy arrested or ticketed. The problem with subjective laws which try to regulate common courtesy is that nobody is safe from prosecution. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not necessary to get someone arrested and charged.
Just because someone says you made an obscene gesture or you were making unreasonable noise in public, does not make it true. If someone becomes confrontational with you over small matters and suggests you are guilty of Disorderly Conduct, my best advice is to swallow your pride, move on, and do your best to deescalate the situation. We seen this as good advice whether you are being accused of Disorderly Conduct or Harassment, C.R.S. 18-9-111.
We know that is not always possible to avoid unreasonable and combative people, so if you find yourself charged, given a summons or ticketed with Disorderly Conduct or Harassment in Weld or Elbert County, or anywhere in the Denver Metropolitan area, be smart and exercise your right to remain silent, and call us at 303-731-0719. Together we can protect your future.