The terms used to define disorderly conduct and breach of the peace are extremely broad and might encompass a variety of factual scenarios. Despite the broad language of the statute, a conviction generally cannot stand where the accused merely creates an annoyance, displays a belligerent attitude, uses profanity, or causes a crowd to gather.
Using words alone is an insufficient basis for a conviction and implicates First Amendment rights to free speech. Instead, under Section 877.03, Florida Statutes, a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct occurs when:
- the defendant commits an act:
- the act is of a nature to:
- corrupt the public morals; or
- outrage the sense of public decency; or
- affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them; or
- the defendant engages in brawling or fighting; or
- the defendant engages in such conduct as to constitute a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct.
The crime of disorderly conduct or breach of the peace is a misdemeanor of the second degree which is punishable by up to six (6) months in jail and a $500 fine.
Examples of disorderly conduct include:
- engaging in loud and belligerent conduct that directly interfered with a police officer’s ability to carry out an investigation or other lawful duty. Delaney v. State, 489 So. 2d 891, 892 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986);
- participating in a fight when the evidence suggests the defendant provoked the fight. M.L.J. v. State, 93 So. 3d 348, 349 (Fla. 2d DCA 2012); or
- refusing to leave a retail store at the request of security guards and subsequently pushing a law enforcement officer and throwing a wallet when asked to leave. Wiltzer v. State, 756 So. 2d 1063 (Fla. 4th DCA 2000).
Similar to the disorderly intoxication statute under Section 856.011, F.S., the disorderly conduct statute prohibits conduct which has some effect on the public.
Attorney for Disorderly Conduct in Tampa, FL
If you were charged with a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct under Section 877.03, Florida Statutes, then contact an experienced criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, FL. We also have a second office located in New Port Richey, FL.
Many of these cases involve disorderly conduct at a licensed establishment including hotel, restaurant, bar, or night club, where special rules apply.
Disorderly Conduct on the Premises of an Establishment
Section 509.143, F.S., prohibits disorderly conduct on the premises of an establishment. The statute also explains special rules for the detention and arrest of a person violating the statute and immunity from liability for the operator of the establishment.
Under Section 509.143(1), F.S., an operator may take a person into custody and detain that person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time if the operator has probable cause to believe that the person was engaging in disorderly conduct in violation of s. 877.03 on the premises of the licensed establishment and that such conduct was creating a threat to the life or safety of the person or others. The operator shall call a law enforcement officer to the scene immediately after detaining a person under this subsection.
Under Section 509.143(2), F.S., a law enforcement officer may arrest, either on or off the premises of the licensed establishment and without a warrant, any person the officer has probable cause to believe violated s. 877.03 on the premises of a licensed establishment and, in the course of such violation, created a threat to the life or safety of the person or others.
As long as the operator or officer who detains a person follows the requirements of the statute, the operator or officer is not civilly or criminally liable for false arrest, false imprisonment, or unlawful detention on the basis of any action taken in compliance with the statute.
On the other hand, under Section 509.143(4), F.S., a person who resists the reasonable efforts of an operator or a law enforcement officer to detain or arrest that person in accordance with this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083, unless the person did not know or did not have reason to know that the person seeking to make such detention or arrest was the operator of the establishment or a law enforcement officer.
Warrantless Arrest Exception for Disorderly Conduct
For most misdemeanors, the officer cannot legally make a warrantless arrest unless the crime was committed in his or her presence. For this reason, the warrantless arrest rule is often called the “in the presence” requirement.
Some types of disorderly conduct are contained on a list of exceptions to the warrantless arrest rule for misdemeanors in Florida. Under Section 509.143(2), F.S., even if every element of the crime was not committed in the officer’s presence, the officer is permitted to make a warrantless arrest for an act of a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct as defined in § 877.03 on the premises of a licensed public lodging establishment as defined in § 509.013(4)(a)).
This article was last updated on Monday, August 19, 2019.