Disorderly conduct is defined as unruly behavior with the intention to cause or disregard the risk of causing a public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm. Common offenses associated with disorderly conduct include being drunk in public, disturbing the peace, or loitering in certain areas.
In Virginia, there are two ways to commit the crime of disorderly conduct. First, an individual commits the offense by engaging in any behavior towards another person that tends to provoke a violent reaction, such as attacking a police officer attempting to make an arrest.
Second, intentionally – or while intoxicated – disrupt a government meeting, funeral service, a school or school activity, or a place of worship. The disruption must prevent or interfere with the activity or meeting or tends to provoke a violent response.
Obstruction & Unlawful Assembly
It is considered obstruction, another form of disorderly conduct, to do the following:
- Block an emergency responder’s way or refuse to move when asked to do so by an emergency responder
- Block a person’s movement in any place normally open to the public
- Cross a police barricade or line
While picketing or peaceful protesting is not considered obstruction, an individual who gets in the way of an ambulance driver or a police officer responding to a car accident could be convicted of the crime. Unlawful assembly is considered a riot which consists of three or more people, acting together to use force and violence which threatens public safety.
Disorderly conduct is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which is punishable by a maximum jail sentence of 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500. Punishment for obstruction ranges from a maximum fine of $500 or a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Unlawful assembly is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If a person is armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon, however, it can either be a felony or a misdemeanor. A rioter who causes injury or property damage can be convicted of a Class 6 felony, punishable by a maximum prison sentence of five years.