In New York, disorderly conduct or public intoxication infractions are not technically criminal cases. Instead, they are violations.[1] Many people mistakenly believe that a violation is the equivalent of a traffic ticket. But you cannot go to jail for a traffic ticket, and you can go to jail for a violation. A fundamental rule of criminal defense is that if jail time is a possibility, you need a defense lawyer Rochester.

Truthfully, very few people receive jail sentences in these cases. However, depending on the facts, probation is a real possibility. Court supervision usually includes restrictive conditions, such as paying a fine and attending self-improvement classes. If you plead guilty or no contest, these conditions are almost inevitable. If you partner with a defense lawyer Rochester, there is a good chance you will face no consequences at all.

Elements of the Offenses

Both these violations are in Article 240 of the New York Penal Law.[2] Disorderly conduct (DOC) is usually a fallback offense. If officers cannot think of any other charges, they usually arrest people for such misbehaviors as:

  • Engaging in any “violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior,”
  • Making an obscene gesture or using obscene language in a public place,
  • Refusing to obey a lawful order to disperse, and
  • Creating “a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.”

Defense lawyers in Rochester typically deal with that fourth bullet point. This point is quite vague and could include almost any activity which anyone finds offensive.

The act alone is not enough. Additionally, the defendant must intentionally or recklessly cause alarm, annoyance, or public inconvenience.

Public intoxication (PI) charges could hold up in court if the defendant is a danger to himself/herself or others while under the influence of alcohol or a “narcotic.” Legal drugs, such as Sominex and prescription pain pills, usually do not count.

Once again, this charge is quite broad. If Jim opens a door or walks across the street, he could be a danger to himself or others. This offense is a regulatory offense with no mental element.

How Does Defense Lawyer Rochester Successfully Resolve These Cases?

A plea to time served might be the best way to resolve these charges. Legally, if the defendant served one minute in jail, that’s the equivalent of a day. Additionally, in most jurisdictions, each day served is equivalent to three days’ credit. Therefore, even if the defendant immediately bonded out, the defendant usually has three days’ credit.

A brief jail sentence means no fine, no probation, and no other strings attached. The defendant walks out of the courtroom.

Some judges are sympathetic enough to offer time served pleas to defendants. Others are not so inclined. A defense lawyer Rochester, like Frank Ciardi, can help ensure that this offer is on the table. Prosecutors are usually willing to offer this deal. Typically, the state must call a non-officer witness who saw the allegedly dangerous or offensive behavior. In disorderly conduct cases, this witness must have been offended. Theoretical offense is insufficient.

A brief word about the fallout of a violation. It’s possible to seal these records, but frequently, this procedure is more trouble than it’s worth. Most job applications, school applications, and other forms ask about “criminal convictions.” PI and DOC are not criminal convictions.

Contact a Dedicated Defense Lawyer Rochester

Even though Article 240 cases are violations instead of crimes, it’s not a good idea to face them alone. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.





The information in this blog is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter.

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