Disorderly Conduct in PA (Maximums and Defenses)


Maximum Penalties:

If you plead guilty to this or are found guilty, it is a misdemeanor of the third degree (M3) at its worst. All M3s have a maximum penalty of jail not more than one year and a maximum fine of $2500.00.

The law reads:

Grading.–An offense under this section is a misdemeanor of the third degree if the intent of the actor is to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience, or if he persists in disorderly conduct after reasonable warning or request to desist. Otherwise disorderly conduct is a summary offense.

But with a misdemeanor conviction there is just so much more to worry about. In truth, jail is temporary. The conviction and its consequences are permanent. You must consider Misdemeanor Conviction Consequences in Pennsylvania.

Again, this is if the worst thing happens. We make sure the worst doesn’t happen. Let’s see how we can fight and beat the government, ok?

The Law:

You can read the exact statute here:

18 PS § 5503.  Disorderly conduct.

What the government must prove to convict for Disorderly Conduct

At all times you are presumed to be innocent. Merely being accused, charged or arrested for an offense is not proof of anything. The jury or judge cannot merely assume you are guilty. The government must prove it. They have to prove certain distinct requirements and all of them beyond a reasonable doubt. Reasonable doubt is a truly undefinable concept under PA case law. Generally speaking it is not imagined doubt or doubt that is manufactured to avoid sitting in judgement of another. 

Here are those necessary parts that must all be there with reliable, trustworthy and credible evidence beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. the accused
  2. with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
    1. engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior; or
    2. makes unreasonable noise; or
    3. uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
    4. creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.


Disorderly Conduct requires events to happen in the public.

If you police force you to leave a private area (not open to the general public) and bring you out into a public area, then the government has not proven the public element of the offense. You are not guilty.

Not a catch all crime

The police cannot use the crime of Disorderly Conduct as a catch-all crime when no other offense fits. The government must always prove the elements of the crime. There is no crime in Pennsylvania for annoying the police.

Not against the law to curse

While using bad language may be disfavored in society, in and of itself, using foul language is not a crime. In order for it to become a crime, it must appeal to the “prurient interests” meaning appealing to shameful or morbid interest in nudity, sex, or excretion and is reflective of an arousal of lewd and lascivious desires and thoughts. So you can curse all day long at the police or flip them the bird and provided you are not trying to appeal to their prurient interests, then it is not a crime in Pennsylvania. 

Protesting is not necessarily a crime

Protesting and using bull horns during normal waking hours in public is not a crime in and of itself. But if the protestors impede entry into a public building or a private business, it may, depending upon the circumstances, be disorderly conduct.

Open carry

For those not prohibited from owning, possessing or transferring a firearm, open carry of a firearm or long gun in PA is lawful. Open carrying of a rifle down the township’s Main Street (it was not a city of the first class) is not the crime of disorderly conduct as it is lawful behavior.