Disorderly conduct has long been among the most frequently charged crimes in the state of Wisconsin. Disorderly conduct is a Class B misdemeanor. It carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail.
Wisconsin law defines disorderly conduct as doing anything “violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud or otherwise disorderly” in a situation or in a way that is likely to create a disturbance. In other words, disorderly conduct is making a scene with the potential to disrupt the peace.
Can speech alone be disorderly conduct?
While there is a fine line between free speech and disorderly conduct, Wisconsin courts have ruled that speech alone can qualify as criminal disorderly conduct in certain situations. In particular, speech may qualify as disorderly conduct when it does not have any ideological or social value and has no apparent purpose other than to create a disturbance.
What if the conduct does not disturb anyone?
Conduct does not need to actually disturb or disrupt anyone in order to qualify as criminally disorderly conduct under the Wisconsin statute. The law merely requires that the behavior is of a kind that is likely to cause or create a disturbance.
Disorderly conduct is a widely applicable crime that is relatively easy to prove. Law enforcement officers frequently charge individuals with disorderly conduct in connection with other criminal behavior, such as assault or domestic violence. While officers typically issue a citation for disorderly conduct alone, it may be grounds for an arrest in connection with other criminal acts.