Disorderly conduct was written into Tennessee law in an effort to help promote the safety of others and maintain order. Unfortunately, it is also an offense which is routinely misunderstood by law enforcement and charged in situations where it is not appropriate. The title of the offense leads to it being the default, ‘you are not complying with my commands’, offense, when in fact you may have no legal obligation to comply with their commands. Please note that being disrespectful, and generally non-compliance when dealing with law enforcement officers is not advisable behavior – but it is also not a crime.

Although disorderly conduct sounds somewhat ambiguous, the law is very specific in what it is, and is not.
Disorderly conduct is defined under Tennessee Code Annotated section 39-17-305 as follows:

  • (a) A person commits an offense who, in a public place and with intent to cause public annoyance or alarm
    • Engages in fighting or in violent or threatening behavior;
    • Refuses to obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard or other emergency; or
    • Creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose.
  • (b) A person also violates this section who makes unreasonable noise that prevents others from carrying on lawful activities

Now here is what Disorderly Conduct is Not: (Please note this is NOT advisable behavior, albeit non-criminal)
1) Using profanity or insults when addressing a police officer
2) Getting angry or argumentative with a police officer
3) Laughing at a police officer
4) Smarting off/Running your mouth to a police officer
5) Generally being Rude to a police officer

Although disorderly conduct is a relatively minor criminal offense, any criminal conviction can have a lasting impact on your ability to earn a living. Most job applicants will be fairly polished and come prepared. Potential employers will look at criminal history’s to determine who gets consideration, and who doesn’t. A minor indiscretion can ensure you lose out on a great employment opportunity. Don’t make the mistake of walking into that courtroom on your own, without an experienced Cookeville criminal lawyer.
Our Cookeville Criminal Defense Attorneys regularly handle the defense of all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases. Call us today to discuss your case at (931) 303– 0421.