Written by attorney Jonathan Andrew Paul

Disorderly conduct Michigan - how your lawyer can help win your case by advocating for this outcome

As a former Michigan and New York City prosecutor, I worked on hundreds of disorderly conduct cases. In the grand scheme of things this type of charge was on the very bottom of criminal charges, but it is still a crime, and should be taken very seriously. When the question of "do you have a criminal record" is asked, the answer is YES just like it would be for more serious offenses.

Disorderly conduct was a bit of a catch-all charge for criminal activity that did not fit into another category. It was also a type of charge that might be offered as a plea reduction down from a more serious charge. One common reduction would be a retail fraud charge, which is then converted into the amended charge of disorderly conduct - this would avoid the "crime of theft, fraud and dishonesty"

In Michigan the term “disorderly person” covers a broad range of undesirable behavior, including: being able-bodied but failing to support your family being a prostitute or “loitering” (hanging out) in places of prostitution being a “Peeping Tom” engaging in an illegal business or profession (such as illegal gambling) loitering in places where illegal business is transacted being intoxicated in public and disturbing others or endangering people or property engaging in indecent or obscene conduct in public (such as nudity or sexual acts) being a vagrant loitering at police stations, jails, hospitals, or courthouses, soliciting work as an attorney or bail bond, and unnecessarily jostling or crowding others in public places.

I would say 95 percent of the disorderly conduct charges that a prosecutor works with is the final charge - the jostling or crowding others in a public place, because this is a common reduction charge - you would not reduce retail fraud to a "peeing tom" disorderly conduct.

​Being a disorderly person is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, or both. Funeral picketing is a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Subsequent convictions are punishable by up to four years in prison or a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

​As a defense lawyer it's rare to see a lone disorderly orderly conduct charge; it typically comes along with other charges, usually alcohol offenses. The above definition and categories are State of Michigan offenses, but this is a common charge on the city, township, village and municipal level.

Disorderly conduct is a very valuable tool as a criminal lawyer, because it is the best type of reduction for a client from a more serious misdemeanor. And because it is a 90 day misdemeanor vs a one year or 93 day misdemeanor, it avoids many of the issues with the more serious offenses. I have had clients resolve their cases with a 90-day misdemeanor, and it does not show up on a background check. I have had prosecutors tell me the same, because fingerprints are not required for 90 day offenses, which helps prevent tracking/paper trail.

As a criminal defense lawyer, I have petitioned courts to get fingerprints back along with arrest cards if my client was first prosecuted for a more serious offense then it is reduced to disorderly conduct.

It is quite the challenge to convince a prosecutor to take a more serious charge and reduce it down to disorderly conduct because of the "less serious offense" issue - to think it may not come up in a background check discourages many prosecutors from offering. It's a bit of a holy grail outcome for many serious cases.

I have even had DUI offenses in Michigan reduced down to disorderly conduct. It's not a common outcome, but my clients have earned that exceptional outcome by being proactive, and changing the perception of their case. If we can change the hearts and minds of the prosecutor and judge, anything is possible when charged with a crime.

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