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Virginia Disorderly Conduct

What is Disorderly Conduct in Virginia?

Disorderly Conduct is a charge that includes a wide range of behaviors that have the “intent to disturb the peace”.

If you are causing a disruption in public and the police have to intervene you will likely be charged with Disorderly Conduct. This is a somewhat catchall charge in Virginia for any behavior the police deem disruptive. The acts prohibited are quite vague and as such can be very subjective, often making this charge hard for the prosecution to prove.

Disorderly Conduct in Virginia:

The accused committed an act with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm; and

The act occurred in a public place; and


    1. The act in question was likely to result in an act of violence by the person at whom it was directed.


    2. The individual was intoxicated from either drugs or alcohol, and disrupts a political gathering or meeting of government officials.*

* It should be noted that if an intoxicated person disrupted such a meeting, the Commonwealth does not need to prove that he acted intentionally. Additionally, the meeting must actually have been disrupted.

Virginia Code Section 18.2-415.

Often a conviction can be avoided by proper preparation of the case. An experienced Virginia criminal defense attorney will have their client complete community service as well as other tasks in advance of court. Depending on the prosecutor they may agree to dismiss the charge based on this pre-trial work performed by the accused or sometimes request something additional.

Examples of Disorderly Conduct

Examples of Disorderly conduct include the use of profane language (cursing) at another in a way likely to incite them to respond violently or fighting itself.  

However, it should be noted that simply yelling on its own is not enough for a disorderly conduct conviction - it must be combined with other behavior.

The act must be done in a public place, such as a street, highway or public building (a bar). Additionally, because an individual must display intent and the acts must be found to be likely to cause acts of violence, there are often defenses to these charges because it so over broad and vague.

How do you know if a person is intoxicated?

A person is intoxicated if he has “has drunk enough alcoholic beverages to observably affect his manner, disposition, speech, muscular movement, general appearance or behavior”. Virginia Code Section 4.1-100.  

Drunk in public is often confused with disorderly conduct and if your charge involved alcohol it is likely that you have been charged with the wrong offense. Drunk in public is a Class 4 Misdemeanor carrying a maximum penalty of a $250 fine, and as such is not as serious a charge as disorderly conduct.

What qualifies as a meeting being “disrupted”?

A meeting is disrupted by preventing or interfering with the orderly conduct of the meeting.

Penalties for Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly conduct in Virginia is a Class 1 Misdemeanor, carrying the possibility of up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

While many of us have at some point acted inappropriately in public - perhaps fighting with a significant other or by having a bit too much to drink - if you are charged with disorderly conduct in Virginia you are facing a serious criminal charge.

It is important to contact a lawyer right away to begin preparing your defense. Call now to schedule your free confidential consultation.


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Virginia, and Washington, DC.