Written in the United States Constitution is the First Amendment, which grants us our right to free speech. Yet, sometimes the line separating free speech from criminal actions can seem blurry. Let's look at an example to understand more of what I mean.
According to a news story, an argument got out of hand between a student and a school bus monitor. Another student allegedly recorded a bus monitor arguing with a boy eating chips on the bus. Apparently, the boy had a medical condition and was allowed to be eating on the bus. But, the bus driver didn't think he should be eating on the bus and threatened to write him up. The bus monitor then allegedly tried to wrestle the chips out of the boy's hand. When the student made a final snarky comment to her, the bus monitor gave the boy the middle finger. In Denver and Douglas County, would this woman face charges of Disorderly Conduct, or is she entitled to freedom of speech?
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Disorderly Conduct and Freedom of Speech in Adams County
People often face charges of Disorderly Conduct after expressing themselves and their free speech breaches the peace.
By giving the middle finger to the student on the bus, an Adams County District Attorney might argue the bus monitor made “a coarse and obviously offensive utterance, gesture, or display in a public place” (C.R.S. 18-9-106(a)). But, according to our First Amendment rights, people can express themselves without interference from the government. So, wasn't the bus monitor just expressing her frustration towards the student? I would say she was. There was no mention that her offensive gesture led to any violence or disturbance of peace. The only way Disorderly Conduct charges would be filed is if the bus monitor's “offensive utterance, gesture, or display incited an immediate breach of the peace” (C.R.S. 18-9-106(a)). Unfortunately, many people actually do face charges of Disorderly Conduct when they're expressing themselves and their free speech “breaches the peace”. Breaching the peace in Denver may look like someone swearing or displaying a deadly weapon in an argument. For example, in another one of my blogs, one woman was arrested for Disorderly Conduct after swearing in public. Law enforcement treats obscenity and swearing as offensive gestures that can breach the peace, rather than free speech.
Arrested or Charged with Disorderly Conduct in Denver? Consult a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Disorderly Conduct can be charged in Denver and El Paso County as a class 1 petty offense, a class 2 misdemeanor, or a class 3 misdemeanor in Colorado. You could risk facing a probation or possible jail sentence of up to 12 months in the Denver County Jail if convicted. If you feel you've been wrongfully charged with Disorderly Conduct after exercising your free speech rights, consult a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.
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If you or someone you love is facing charges of Disorderly Conduct in Jefferson or El Paso County or any surrounding county in Colorado, be smart, exercise your right to remain silent and contact our criminal defense lawyers immediately. The experienced attorneys at the O'Malley Law Office have years of experience defending those accused of Disorderly Conduct. Call us today at 303-830-0880. Together, we can protect your future.Request a Free Consultation
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