Defense of Minnesota Disorderly Conduct Charges

Though only a misdemeanor, disorderly conduct is a serious criminal offense. An arrest and conviction can have long-lasting and unforeseen consequences (e.g. loss of a professional license, future employment opportunities, etc.). If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a disorderly conduct offense, contact the Balmer Law Office for a free and confidential case evaluation. Minneapolis criminal defense attorney David Balmer is available via the firm's 24-hour hotline: 612-326-4175.

Minnesota Disorderly Conduct Law

Minnesota Disorderly Conduct law is both incredibly broad and vague. The law prohibits the following conduct provided that the actor knows (or should know) that the conduct will tend to alarm, anger, or provoke an assault or breach of peace:

  • Brawling or fighting;
  • Disturbing an assembly or meeting; or
  • Engaging in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noise conduct or language.

The statute is so broad that it has twice been narrowed by the Minnesota Supreme Court. In a 1978 case called In the Matter of the Welfare of S.L.J., the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that speech alone (unless such speech qualifies as “fighting words”) cannot be the basis for a disorderly conduct conviction. And in a 2017 case called State v. Hensel, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that prohibition against disturbing an assembly or meeting was overbroad and unconstitutional.

Defenses to Minnesota Disorderly Conduct Charges

The statute requires the defendant to know—or that a reasonable person would know—that the alleged conduct would alarm, anger, or provoke and assault or breach of the peace. This requirement is context specific and can often present a potential defense for the charge. What is offensive to one person is valuable art to another. The State has to prove—beyond a reasonable doubt—that the defendant knew, or should have known, that his conduct would alarm, anger, or provoke a breach of the peace in another.

Minnesota courts have also recognized self-defense as an affirmative defense to the charge of disorderly conduct. Self-defense is an affirmative defense—meaning that the defendant has the initial burden to present facts justifying a self-defense jury instruction that the State must overcome at trial.

Consequences of a Disorderly Conduct Conviction

Even as a misdemeanor, a disorderly conduct conviction can have serious consequences. A conviction for disorderly conduct will make obtaining future employment more difficult. Moreover, a conviction can result in the loss of a professional license (e.g. medical license, teacher’s license, etc.). And non-citizens may risk deportation with a conviction for disorderly conduct.

Contact the Balmer Law Office—Minnesota Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or questioned by police about a disorderly conduct offense anywhere in Minnesota, Minneapolis criminal defense attorney David Balmer will review your case and discuss your rights and possible defenses to the charges. Contact the Balmer Law Office for a free, confidential case evaluation. The Balmer Law Office is available via its 24-hour hotline: 612-326-4175.