Are you reading this because an NYPD officer handed you a pink summons charging you with a violation of New York Penal Law 240.20 (disorderly conduct) and directing you to appear at NYC criminal court at 346 Broadway, 314 West 54th Street, 161st Street in Bronx or 120-55 Queens Boulevard?
If it happened to you, you are in good company. Disorderly conduct 240.20 is among the most commonly issued summons for NYC Criminal court. Believe it or not, ordinary people get charged with disorderly conduct in New York City for innocent behavior such as standing in the street trying to hail a cab, arguing with friends loudly, cutting in line, going the wrong way on an escalator, talking back to cops and even double parking (YES, even double parking). Even Alec Baldwin was cited for disorderly conduct a few years ago for riding his bicycle the wrong way on a one way street.
New York's Disorderly Conduct statue under the New York Penal Law has 7 different subsections (see below) which casts a wide net over what amounts to a lot of everyday behavior. While disorderly conduct is a "Violation" and not a "Crime" under the New York Penal Law, the maximum penalty is 15 days at Rikers Island and a fine of a few hundred bucks.
But, in reality, jail time is extremely unlikely for a disorderly conduct and the typical worst-case scenario is a fine of anywhere from 50 to 200 dollars and/or a day of community service. Many people can get their disorderly conduct cases immediately dismissed or they can get an ACD which will provide for an automatic dismissal in 6 months. An "ACD" is an Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal under Penal Law 170.55 which means that the case will be dismissed and sealed in 6 months. For many people, the ACD is a great way to dispose of a disorderly conduct case because the individual merely has to consent to the ACD and avoid any trouble for six months and then at the end of the 6 month period the summons is automatically dismissed. The individual does not have to plead guilty.
Most people charged with disorderly conduct are not worried about the fine as much as the prospect of having the charge becoming a permanent public record. (unless the charge is dismissed or ACD'ed, it will become a permanent public record)
Call me at 212-786-2999 if you would like to discuss whether I can help you get your disorderly conduct charge dismissed. (don't worry, the consultation is free)
Hiring me to handle the case is really quite simple and very reasonably priced for an experienced NYC lawyer.
The New York PL 240.20 Disorderly Conduct Statute states that a violation of New York Penal Law 240.20 occurs when:
"a person, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: engages in one or more of the following activities:
1. fighting or engaging in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; (Very common to see this one charged around the bars at 3am)
2.making unreasonable noise;
3. using abusive or obscene language, or making obscene gesture in a public place; (luckily this section is often dismissed as a first amendment violation)
4. disturbing any lawful assembly or meeting of persons without lawful authority;
5. obstructing vehicular or pedestrian traffic; (this includes standing in one place on the sidewalk or double parking)
6. congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse;
7. creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. (this section is the catchall for disorderly conduct)
Disorderly Conduct is codified under the New York Penal Section Law 240.20. It is an extremely frequently charged violation in NYC.
The NYPD charges people with disorderly conduct for all sorts of minor transgressions, including--believe it or not-- traffic related violations such as double parking or going through a stop sign. The NYPD also will issue a summons for Disorderly Conduct when people are just arguing loudly in the street, roughhousing, not following NYPD orders to "move along" or just talking back to NYPD (questioning NYPD authority is an easy way to get a 240.20 summons)..
If you have received a summons for disorderly conduct, and are waiting to go to court, have a lawyer experienced with disorderly conduct cases obtain and review the court copy of the summons from the clerk of court. The court copy of the summons has more information than the pink copy of the summons that was handed to you by the officer. The court copy has a section where the officer who issued the summons writes what he or she saw that gave rise to the summons for disorderly conduct. I call this the "fact section" of the summons.
This fact section of the summons is what the judge will look at when you go to court and you are called to the podium. In the "summons parts" of the NYC Criminal courts where these cases are heard, the judge will often look at the summons and either dismiss, ACD or give you the choice of a fine or trial. All within about 60 seconds. Things move very quickly and If you need to get the summons dismissed or ACD'd you should bring a lawyer with you to court who is experienced with how these summons parts work. Make sure that the lawyer has reviewed the summons prior to court. This will maximize your odds of getting the case dismissed.
IF YOU ARE SERIOUS ABOUT GETTING YOUR DISORDERLY CONDUCT SUMMONS DISMISSED MAKE SURE YOU HAVE AN ATTORNEY REVIEW THE FACT SECTION OF THE SUMMONS BEFORE YOU GO TO COURT. Remember that the goal is to get the judge to dismiss or "ACD" the summons on the first court appearance. That will ensure that the charge will no longer be a public record available to background checkers, etc.. The best way for the judge to dismiss the case is if the summons is facially insufficient. Without proper review of the fact section of the summons before court there is less chance for your attorney to make a compelling motion to dismiss on grounds of facial insufficiency. Since the judge is looking at about 400 of these tickets everyday, it is the lawyer's job to point out the insufficient nature of the allegations and move for a dismissal on those grounds.
A lawyer highly experienced with these disorderly conduct summons should be able to review the fact section of a disorderly conduct summons and determine whether a compelling argument can be made for a dismissal based on facial insufficiency. Feel free to call me at 212-786-2999 if you want me to review the allegations in your summons. (These allegations are available in the filed court copy of the summons). There is no obligation for me to pick up a copy of your summons at the court and review it with you. If you would prefer, feel free to fill out the form to the left and contact me by email. If you prefer to just send me an email rather than the form, send it to email@example.com. Be sure to enclose your name, the ticket number and your court date.
Be aware that even when the fact allegations in the summons are legally sufficient to sustain the disorderly conduct charge, there are arguments that experienced lawyers can present to the court to persuade the court to dismiss the charge anyway. Call me at 212-786-2999 if you want to learn how I persuade the courts to dismiss disorderly conduct charges even when the allegations are facially sufficient.
Below are a few more facts about disorderly conduct under Penal Law 240.20
Disorderly conduct is a charge to which many misdemeanor and even felony charges are eventually reduced. Even some felonies--in very rare cases-- eventually get reduced to a 240.20
When a client is charged with a criminal offense, such as possession of marijuana in the 5th degree, assault, reckless driving, etc., many NYC lawyers will seek a disorderly conduct (240.20) as a compromise between the misdemeanor and the outright dismissal and/or the ACD. NYC Prosecutors frequently offer it instead of the criminal misdemeanor when a defendant has a minimal or no prior record. In fact, anyone spending time in a New York City criminal courtroom, will likely hear prosecutors offering a 240.20 more frequently than any provision of the Penal Law.
Offering the 240.20 allows prosecutors the chance to dispose of a case short of offering an ACD or completely dismissing the case.
As an NYC criminal defense lawyer, I am frequently discussing with clients the Penal Law"240.20" aka disorderly conduct. It is a violation, not a crime and will result in a sealing under CPL 160.55 But a sealing under CPL 160.55 does not seal the Court file, it only seals the arrest records. Since the court file is still available to the public under a CPL 160.55 sealing, If the original charge was a misdemeanor or a felony, this original charge that was reduced to a 240.20 is available to background checkers and the general public.
Often, clients without records who are offered the Penal Law 240.20 in the NYC Criminal Courts and want to keep their records clean try to get a further reduction to an ACD, which results in a complete sealing under CPL 160.50. The sealing under 160.50 seals not only the arrest but also the court file.
When charged with a misdemeanor in NYC such as petit larceny, obstructing governmental administration, assault or possession of a controlled substance, it is often very tempting for a person to accept an offer to plead guilty to a reduced charge of 240.20 Disorderly Conduct. Sure, the 240.20, unlike a misdemeanor, is not a crime and just a "violation" which means that it will neither create nor add to a peron's criminal record.
That is very important because It means that a person (assuming they have no prior criminal convictions) will not have to answer "yes" on a job application to a question asking whether they have ever been convicted of a crime.
However, because of the sealing issues under CPL 160.55 discussed above, along with a panapoly of other reasons, the decision to settle for the 240.20 is one that should be carefully considered and discussed with a good NYC criminal lawyer.
Moreover, just because Disorderly Conduct is a violation and not a crime, someone charged with it should not automatically enter a plea to it to get it over with. Pleading guilty to anything under the Penal Law-- regardless of whether it is label as a crime or a violation-- is a decision that always requires careful consideration backed by good advice. For that matter, pleading to anything under any statute, code or rule or regulation should not be done without proper counsel.
While a 240.20 Disorderly Conduct is not a crime, there may be--aside from the sealing issues-- hidden collateral consequences to a guilty plea to a Disorderly Conduct. I think that no New York lawyer should ever tell their client that there are no consequences to a disorderly conduct plea.
Although records of the arrest--if there was an arrest-- will get destroyed under CPL 160.55, if there is a plea to a 240.20 down from a criminal offense, the public information in the Court file will always be available to the general public, background checkers or anyone who bothers to go to the Courthouse where the case was heard. They would just need a Defendant's name and other information such as arrest date, or docket number etc.
Nonetheless, there are times when it is wise to accept the 240.20 Disorderly Conduct offer. Every case is different, but one example would be when a client is charged with an easily proven misdemeanor such as shoplifting (especially when caught outside the store with merchandise) and the prosecutor offers the 240.20, but adamantly refuses to offer the ACD and is ready for trial and has his/her witness are at the courthouse ready to testify against the client.
Under that scenario, accepting the 240.20 disorderly conduct (assuming it is still being offered) will prevent the possibility of having a permanent criminal record. But, as always, any strategy choice should be discussed with one's own NYC Criminal attorney.
In cases where there is no misdemeanor charged and the top count is just a 240,20, and the prosecutor refuses to offer the ACD (adjournment in contemplation of dismissal under cpl 170.55), often the best choice may be to just go ahead and demand a trial. But again, that decision is something to make after consulting with an experienced criminal defense lawyer. One that is familar with the particular court where the disorderly conduct is being heard.
Sometimes, there are good dismissal motions that can be made with a 240.20 disorderly conduct charge, especially when the underlying allegation involves either obscene language, fighting, blocking pedestrian or vehicular traffic, or unlawfully congregating. Call 212-786-2999 to discuss your options if you have a disorderly conduct charge pending in the New York City Criminal Courts.