Disorderly Conduct in New York, Penal Law 240.20


A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof:

  1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
  2. He makes unreasonable noise; or
  3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
  4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
  5. He obstructs vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
  7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose. Disorderly conduct is a violation.

I see this charge for students very frequently.   The police use this violation as their favorite thing to charge students with then they “mouth off” to the police on a street outside a house party. 

For the prosecutor to be successful at trial, they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the alleged conduct happened in a public place, and that the conduct caused public annoyance (or any other factors listed above).  


  1. $0-$250 fines
  2. up to 15 days in jail  (not uncommon for charges that happen on SLOPE DAY or other big drinking days in Ithaca)
  3. $120 surcharge in City Court / $125 surcharge in Town Court
  4. 1 year Conditional Discharge (no new arrests)


For starters...are you IN PUBLIC?  

Generally, this means that you are outside.  If you are inside a house or apartment it is unlikely you will be charged with Disorderly Conduct. 

However, if you are inside a PUBLIC BUILDING --such as any building on the campus of Cornell University or Ithaca College--then you can be charged with Disorderly Conduct. 

Also, be aware that any street within Cornell of IC's campus is considered a PUBLIC street.  So you can't avoid this crime just because you're on campus.

When do the police normally charge this crime? 

  1. When you're outside
  2. You're drunk or high
  3. You're causing some kind of disturbance (i.e. yelling, talking loudly amongst a group of people, fighting, using loud stereo equipment, honking a car horn, etc)
  4. You may (or may not) have talked back to the Police.

I see college students charged with this crime MOST OFTEN when they're disregarding the police.   Usually in Ithaca, if there is a party or group of students outside some place, the Police arrive and instruct everybody to go home (unless they see drugs or something else more serious).  
It's when some drunk college students start to protest or talk back to the Police--that's when students get charged with DISORDERLY CONDUCT or worse... 
[ Resisting Arrest = Class A misdemeanor]

[Obstructing Government Administration 2nd = Class A misdemeanor]
Disorderly Conduct is NOT a crime in New York.  It is a violation. However, be warned that it does carry a jail sentence up to 15 days.   It is NOT uncommon for a prosecutor in Tompkins County or Ithaca City Court to ask for some short jail sentence to "scare you straight."

If you are charged with Disorderly Conduct or any other violation, call us: 607-229-5184

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