If you create a public disturbance, you can face charges of disorderly conduct. Rude gestures, foul language, and unkind words are not uncommon in our society. However, if law enforcement officers get involved, you can face disorderly conduct charges. Depending on what you do and where you do it, you could face misdemeanor or even felony charges. Let’s look at what disorderly conduct is and when it is considered a misdemeanor or a felony.

What is Disorderly Conduct?

According to North Carolina law, disorderly conduct is a public disturbance you intentionally cause by:

  • Engaging in fighting
  • Engaging in violent conduct
  • Creating a threat of imminent fighting or other violence
  • Saying anything, including abusive language, likely to provoke violent retaliation
  • Making a gesture likely to provoke violent retaliation 
  • Making some type of display likely to provoke violent retaliation 

If you willfully engage in disorderly conduct, you can face Class 2 misdemeanor charges. The majority of disorderly conduct charges are misdemeanors. However, you can face felony charges if you’ve faced charges of disorderly conduct in the past.

Special Situations

Some social situations are more protected than everyday types of public interaction. If you are at an educational institution or event, religious service, memorial service, or ceremony, others scrutinize your behavior a bit more stringently. Someone may quickly call in law enforcement to police a disturbance.

For example, if you disturb a memorial service in any way, you can face a Class 1 misdemeanor charge for a first-time offense! Class 1 misdemeanor charges are more serious than Class 2 misdemeanors, and they come with more severe penalties. 

For a second disorderly conduct charge at a memorial service, you can face a Class I felony charge; for a third or subsequent offense, a Class H felony charge.

Memorial Services

There are many ways you can face disorderly conduct charges at memorial events. Because of the occasion’s solemnity, the law provides rules of conduct for people in the vicinity. 

Law enforcement can charge you for any disorderly behaviors that occur:

  • 2 hours before or after a memorial type service
  • Within 500 feet of the memorial service site or on the processional route

You can face charges of disorderly conduct for any of the following behaviors:

  • You intend to interfere with the order of any (including military):
    • Funeral
    • Memorial service
    • Family processional to the funeral or memorial service
    • Normal activities occurring in the facilities or buildings where a funeral or memorial service is taking place.
  • You display any visual image that conveys: 
    • fighting words 
    • actual or imminent threats of harm directed to any person or property associated with the memorial
  • You act to impede, disrupt, disturb, or interfere with a memorial service or processional route by uttering:
    • Loud, threatening, or abusive language
    • Singing
    • Chanting
    • Whistling
    • Yelling with or without noise amplification 
  • You attempt to block pedestrian or vehicular access to the ceremonial site

Educational Institutions

For any educational institution, public or private, take note. Our government protects those enrolled in public and private educational institutions. Educational administrators may call in law enforcement for certain acts. Examples of behavior that can earn you a disorderly conduct charge include:

  • Taking possession of any facility without being given specific authority by an administrative representative.
  • Refusing to vacate any facility of any educational institution when asked by a:
    • Chief administrative officer of the institution or representative.
    • Any fireman or public health officer.
    • Any law-enforcement officer during an emergency.
  • If you’re told to vacate an educational institution but instead you:
    • Sit, kneel, lie down, or incline to prevent the use of any building.
    • Congregate, assemble, form groups (whether organized or not), block, or interfere with the operation or functioning of any facility.
  • Disrupting, disturbing, or interfering with the teaching of students 
  • Disturbing the peace, order, or discipline 
  • Engaging in conduct that disturbs the peace, order, or discipline on any school bus.

Religious Institutions 

If attending a mosque, temple, or church service, you could quickly receive a disorderly conduct charge for intentionally causing a disturbance. If someone calls law enforcement to the scene and the witnesses claim that you disrupted a service intentionally, you could face charges. At a religious institution, you engage in disorderly conduct by: 

  • Disrupting a religious service or assembly
  • Disturbing a religious service or assembly
  • Interfering with a religious service or assembly
  • Engaging in behavior that disturbs the peace or order at any religious service or assembly.

We Can Help

At Hopler, Wilms, and Hanna, we understand that we all make mistakes. Sometimes we need help to defend ourselves. Whether you face felony or misdemeanor disorderly conduct charges, our criminal defense attorneys want to work with you to form the best defense in your particular situation. Often, we can work with prosecutors to defer or even dismiss charges.  Let us help you move past the charges you face and find your way to a bright future. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.



1.GS 14-288.4

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