In St. Augustine disorderly conduct is often used as a catch all for arrest when a police officer is offended. These types of charges are common around bars and during spring break at our St. Johns County beaches. It is real easy to get arrested for disorderly conduct but it is much harder for the State of Florida to prove it. When the case law is reviewed most statements that can be made are constitutionally protected free speech. Words alone will rarely be sufficient for a Palm Beach County disorderly conduct conviction. Being rude to the police will get you a free ride to jail in the back of a police car but will rarely be sufficient for a conviction. Disorderly conduct also includes fighting and is charged instead of battery when both parties are engaged in mutual combat or who is at fault cannot be determined. The constitution and case law prevent the disorderly conduct statute from encompassing a wide range of behavior.
Disorderly conduct is somewhat unique in that many of the defenses are based upon the first amendment. Free speech covers not only speech but expression. Criminal defense attorneys often use the 4 th amendment to defend against illegal search and seizures. Generally disorderly conduct is dealing with some form of expression. The freedom of expression is broad and words alone are rarely enough to sustain a disorderly conduct conviction.
Today’s decision reflects the constitutional requirement that, in the face of verbal challenges to police action, officers and municipalities must respond with restraint. We are mindful that the preservation of liberty depends in part upon the maintenance of social order. But the First Amendment recognizes, wisely we think, that a certain amount of expressive disorder not only is inevitable in a society committed to individual freedom, but must its self be protected if that freedom would survive. The appellate courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of allowing broad expression under the first amendment. The broad expression can be applied to many Florida disorderly conduct and Florida disorderly intoxication cases. It is often beneficial if a Florida resisting arrest with or Florida resisting arrest without violence charge is filed based upon the conduct during an illegal disorderly conduct arrest.