Johnny Law got me
So I recently got ticketed for Disorderly Conduct. This guy was causing trouble at a party and got thrown into a bush. I helped him out of the bush, even though he was causing an issue with my friends. When everyone was trying to get after him, I was the one keeping the peace. Being that he was intoxicated, and I was one of the smaller people in the area, he mindlessly turned his aggression towards me. When he went to engage me I simply put my hands up and started some head movement. I walked him down about a half a block (yes, he back peddled that far) until he swung twice on me. I slipped the first and weaved the second so no contact was made. After that, I didn't engage him because all I wanted him to do was leave and not get hurt. Before a resolution could be reached a squad car pulled up and put me in cuffs to get the kid's story. He never got my side oddly enough. I didn't get arrested, but I have this damn misdemeanor ticket in my pocket and was wondering if anyone had any advice. Do I need a lawyer? If not, I'm not going to bother because I'm a broke college student. What kind of trouble am I facing on my first offense?
Thanks in advance.
Sorry to hear about your experience. I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV... but I'm a cop so here's my two cents. Mind you, I'm in Washington state and not your state...
1. You *did* get arrested if you got a misdemeanor ticket. You just didn't get booked. So this is a criminal offense... so take it seriously. Unless where you live traffic tickets are called misdemeanors.
For example, in WA state traffic tickets are "notice of infraction" and are on green papers. Misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors are criminal offenses and are on yellow papers. If you were given a first appearance / court date, it's criminal. You don't show up, it goes to warrant. If there's any doubt, contact the court that is most likely listed on the misdemeanor citation and ask them if this is a criminal offense.
2. There should be an incident report number or case number somewhere on your ticket... using that, go to the jurisdiction of who arrested you and request the incident report. You might have to pay for copies, but each department is different. Since you're the defendant, you should get a free one.
At least this way you'll know who was contacted, what the officers said was going on, etc. etc.
3. Use the power of the internet and find out what "disorderly conduct" means in your area. Check the legal code that you were cited for and use that as the basis. For example, WA state has a criminal code for disorderly conduct, but the city I work in also has their own city ordinance for disorderly conduct which differs slightly. Find out what law violation you were charged with and look up what it entails.
In our jurisdiction, ANYONE fighting (which is defined as two folks engaging in any manner) can get cited for disorderly. Totally not going into officer discretion, etc. because that's a whole 'nother conversation and I wasn't at your incident. The incident report should state what the officers thought.
4. You'll research what's going on and then go to your first appearance. You can request a lawyer there and ask for a public defender if money's an issue. Plus, they'll at least know the ins and outs of the local legal system and be able to better advise you.
Example: "these come through all the time, plea to a lesser, non-criminal offense and it'll be a $ 200 fine" or something like that. Don't plea to the criminal offense because now you've got a criminal record, which may impact your schooling / work search / etc
Talk to the public defender and get your information to make a decision on.
1. Take it seriously
2. Educate yourself
3. Don't miss court
4. Talk to a public defender
Hope it helps and again, please remembrer that I'm all the way on the west coast so your mileage may vary.
Like D Almer, I too work I work in LE. Everything he described works the same in my state too (NC). Educate yourself and get a lawyer. Don't get screwed.
Ditto. Also a cop here. Don't blow this off. Your record will follow you everywhere, and trying to explain this over and over for the next forty years is much harder than dealing with it now. The justice system is not out to get you, just engage in it. I would suggest following the above advice, and possibly even contacting the State's Attorney, or whatever it is called in your area, to see what they think.
I am a former Law Enforcement Officer and have a law degree, though I am not currently practicing law. For that reason, I have to post the standard disclaimer that the following is for informational purposes and should not be considered legal advice. Besides, you already got really good advice from D Almer.
As I read your story, it sounded pretty reasonable. The problem is this, imagine the same situation described from the other perspective. "I was at a party and had had a couple of beers. I got into an arguement with someone and was grabbed and thrown to the ground. I got up and several people were acting hostile towards me. I went to leave and this Wrestler dude got in my face. I tried to retreat, but he kept following me. I just wanted to get out of there, but after a half block, he was still following me, in my face, and menacing me. He was bobing and weaving like a boxer, taunting me. I thought he was going to hit me, so I swung to defend myself..." You get the idea. By following him so far when he was retreating, you open yourself up to the interpretation that you wouldn't let him walk away. I am not saying that is true, but it could well be why the officer chose to arrest you.
The one piece of advice that I will give, is to repeat that you need to request an attorney. These issues can follow you in unexpected ways and it is best to deal with them right in the beginning. Good luck.