You were standing on the street yelling obscenities when the police arrived. Is this disorderly conduct under Illinois law? Maybe yes, maybe no. The answer depends on all the facts.

To be convicted of disturbing the peace under the Illinois Disorderly Conduct statute, the State must prove that you knowingly acted in such an unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace.

To determine exactly what that all means, a court reviews all the surrounding facts and circumstances of your case. The disorderly conduct law’s main purpose is to guard against molesting or harassing another, either mentally or physically, without justification. Therefore, your conduct must generally threaten another or have an effect on others. There need not be overt threats or abusive language, and your conduct need not be made in public.

In People v Steger, the defendant merely stood for a few minutes outside of his ex-girlfriend’s house. The court found this was enough to convict defendant. The parties had a history of tension involving custody of their minor child. For that reason, custody exchanges took place at a neutral site. Under these circumstances, defendant’s standing across from the victim’s house provoked a breach of the peace.

However, the court did not find disorderly conduct in People v. Bradshaw, where the defendant stood outside a tavern yelling obscenities. Since no one had left the tavern, the court reasoned that defendant did not provoke a breach of the peace.

If you have been accused of disorderly conduct, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Because the definition of disturbing the peace can be so fact specific, it is imperative that you do not try to talk your way out of your situation. You will likely only dig yourself in deeper. An attorney can review the facts to present your defense in its best possible light.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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