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Disorderly conduct, criminal or ordinance violation in Wisconsin?

Disorderly conduct, criminal or simply an ordinance violation in Wisconsin?

A charge for disorderly conduct in Wisconsin will commence differently depending on whether an individual is being charged criminally or with just an ordinance violation.  If an individual gets arrested and booked for criminal disorderly conduct, he or she will have to either post bond or go before a judge to get released from jail.  An officer could also issue a Wisconsin Uniform Misdemeanor Citation, which is a criminal charge that requires a court appearance at the time and date specified on the citation.  If an individual fails appear in court as required, the court will issue an arrest warrant.  Alternatively, an officer may issue a ticket as an ordinance violation.  An ordinance violation differs from criminal disorderly conduct as defined in Statute 947.01 in that it is not criminal and does not carry the possibility of jail time. This type of ticket means an individual has violated a city ordinance prohibiting disorderly conduct and need only pay a fine. The ticket will specify a time and date for the first court appearance, and failure to appear in court will result in a loss by default entry.

Disorderly Conduct

The criminal charge in Wisconsin is classified as a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum of 90 days in jail and a $1000 fine.  Wisconsin Statute 947.01 governs disorderly conduct, which is defined as follows:

(1) Whoever, in a public or private place, engages in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor.
(2) Unless other facts and circumstances that indicate a criminal or malicious intent on the part of the person apply, a person is not in violation of, and may not be charged with a violation of, this section for loading, carrying, or going armed with a firearm, without regard to whether the firearm is loaded or is concealed or openly carried.
Under this statute, an individual does not need to be disturbed by the conduct for it to be considered disorderly.  Conduct must be a type of behavior which tends to provoke a disturbance.    In other words, even if the behavior does not disturb anyone, behaving in a way that could lead to a disturbance is sufficient to justify a criminal charge for disorderly conduct.  However, conduct that tends to cause only personal annoyance is not punishable under the statute.

A criminal charge is issued by the District Attorney. Statute 947.01 is quite broad, which allows flexibility in defining disorderly conduct.  In many instance, what constitutes “disorderly conduct” comes down to the subjective judgment of the individuals involved in the incident.

Criminal disorderly conduct can be categorized as public or domestic, the difference being the relationship of the people present at the scene. Public disorderly conduct involves strangers, whereas domestic requires a domestic relationship between the parties. Wisconsin law defines a domestic relationship as dating, married, divorced, former or present roommates, parents to a common child, expecting a common child, or relation by blood or marriage. A charge for disorderly conduct related to domestic violence carries with it additional and more serious penalties than a charge for public disorderly conduct.

If the individual charged with criminal disorderly conduct is a repeater, the maximum penalty of 90 days in jail increases to two years in prison. In Wisconsin, a repeater is defined as someone having been convicted on at least three separate occasions of a misdemeanor within the last five years or one felony conviction within the last five years.  A conviction for criminal disorderly conduct counts as a misdemeanor under the Wisconsin repeater statute; thus, three separate convictions for criminal disorderly conduct within five years results in status as a repeater.

If you or someone you know has been issued a citation for or charged with disorderly conduct, contact one of the experienced attorneys at our office located in Racine, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Statute 947: