Exclusively Practicing Criminal Defense for
Two Decades
David Olshansky

Disorderly Conduct

The state of Illinois provides a number of public services for health and safety benefits of the people in Illinois. As the state resources are limited, any unnecessary strain on public services could lead to a breakdown in law and order or public safety.

For this reason, any attempts to engage the public services in an area where they are not needed are frowned upon. Take the fire safety or law-enforcement agencies, for instance. Most small cities and towns usually have only one fire station operating there. Any false fire alarms raised due to callous attitude might keep the fire department from responding to an actual fire hazard.

In order to keep people from misusing public services or raising false alarms, the state of Illinois has implemented the disorderly conduct legislation, which aims to discourage abusive behavior.

State Legislation

Disorderly conduct is covered by 720 ILCS 5/26. According to the law, a person commits disorderly conduct when he or she knowingly takes an action that alarms or disturbs another person and provokes a breach of peace.

Some of the actions that are categorically covered in the legislation are listed here.

  1. Falsely reporting a fire or raising the fire alarm.
  2. Falsely reporting the threat of a bomb or another explosive.
  3. Falsely reporting an attack on a school.
  4. Falsely reporting a crime in progress in order to divert law enforcement.
  5. Falsely reporting the abuse or neglect of a child.
  6. Requesting emergency services like 911 when they aren’t necessary.
  7. Making a false report to the Department of Public Health under any of the medical health acts.
  8. Intruding into the home of another person or looking inside it for a lewd purpose.
  9. Use of harassment or intimidation while acting as a debt collector.

Disorderly conduct may either be charged as a misdemeanor or a Class 4 felony depending on the severity of the offense and damage caused.

Misdemeanor convictions lead to prison sentences of one month, six months or one year depending on the Class of misdemeanor charged. The court may also impose fines of $1,500 to $2,500 for misdemeanors.

Disorderly conduct charged as a Class 4 felony could lead to a prison sentence of 1 – 3 years and fines of up to $10,000.

Considerations for Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct is a broad term that covers a lot of activity that can be detrimental to peace and order in the state. The law specifically covers unreasonable behavior from an individual, which makes another person alarmed and disturbed.

A large section of the law covers the act of raising false alarm that engages public services in areas where they are not needed. If unnecessary engagement of services, caused by the accused, results in loss or damage at another place, the prosecution may bring this to the attention of the court during a trial. This may have an influence on the court’s ruling.

Examples and Court Cases

Many examples of disorderly conduct involve drunken people acting in unsocial ways. During the St. Patrick’s Day holiday last year, an intoxicated man was arrested for disturbing the peace in Palos Park.

The police were called to a scene where a drunken man was found yelling and screaming at people. The man was reportedly going from door to door while eating potato chips and knocking on windows and doors.

The police stopped the man at the front of a house and inquired about what he was doing. The man allegedly responded that he was looking for a party at a friend’s home. The officers found the man to be highly intoxicated and unable to be reasoned with. He was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct as a minor misdemeanor.

In a separate case, a 15-year-old was arrested in a Chicago suburb on disorderly conduct charges. The youth had posted photos on the social media that showed him holding an assault rifle. At least one of the photos had a caption that made a threat against a high school in Palos Heights.

The police searched his home and did not find a weapon. It was later discovered that the photos were taken elsewhere. The weapon was identified as belonging to someone with a valid firearm owner’s ID card.

Meanwhile, the Educators school safety network in Illinois reported that they receive more than 50 false alarms or threats of violence to schools every day. The number has drastically picked up since the Florida shootings.

The officials believe that people issue these threats as a practical joke or a way of getting attention. Law-enforcement agencies in Illinois warned the public that any threats to school safety will be taken seriously and prosecuted in courts under disorderly conduct.

Making a threat or raising safety alarm as a practical joke could lead to serious consequence for the culprit. The legislation specifically allows the law-enforcement agencies and prosecution to charge them as a misdemeanor, which could lead to a criminal record.

Possible Legal Defenses

A person could be charged with disorderly conduct in a number of scenarios. The basic premise of the law is that the defendant was disturbing peace and order or causing harm to public safety in some way.

Apart from questioning the prosecution’s case, an accused person has three main legal defenses.

A defendant could go with self-defense in a case where a charge is brought against him or her for brawling or threatening another person.

The law specifically notes that a person needs to be in a public place to be charged with disorderly conduct. If a person gets drunk and causes a disturbance in a public place, they can be charged with disorderly conduct. However, if a person gets drunk in his home or a friend’s party, he cannot be charged with disorderly conduct.

The first amendment protects a person’s freedom of speech. If the defendant is charged with disorderly conduct for saying or taking an action that causes alarm in a public place, he or she may be able to use the protections guaranteed by the first amendment.

In cases of false alarm, the person may also be able to use the defense of good intentions. The defense may argue that the person had reasonable cause to believe that a fire or bomb threat was imminent and acted in good faith to raise the alarm.

These legal defenses are useful in different situations and the right one depends on the circumstances of the case. You should consult a good defense lawyer to understand which one is best suited to your needs.