Continuing with the crime profiles on my Denver criminal defense lawyer blog, I'm going to talk about something a little less severe than in the last edition of this series which was about incest. Disorderly conduct is an interesting crime because it can encompass so many things. Although it has elements like any other crimes, those elements are deeply open to interpretation and can include a huge range of different activities. The minor form of disorderly conduct means a "coarse or offensive gesture." I suppose that's supposed to mean the middle finger, though that in itself may be questionable based on free speech concerns. However, there are tons of other things this could mean. That means it's a double edged sword for people charged with a crime.
On one hand, Denver criminal defense lawyers hate laws like this since basically anybody can be charged with it. A "coarse or offensive gesture." Seriously? Show 10 people one gesture and it'll be split down the middle. Who's impression are we using here? Does somebody actually have to be "offended?" Heck, does anybody even have to be there? Is it offensive in a vacuum or not? So basically the prosecutors will essentially be able to charge a ton of different actions as "indecent exposure." That leaves Denver criminal defense lawyers with a lot of work to do when defending charges of disorderly conduct in Colorado.
On the other hand, a broad crime that is as innocent-sounding as disorderly conduct can be pretty useful. In many cases, a defendant will be charged with a crime that's not so much serious as it is embarassing. In that case, he may want to plead down to a charge that does not look too bad on the criminal record, not only in terms of severity but also in the nature of the crime. A classic example of this is public urination. Peeing in an alley is not that serious, but it carries a certain nasty rap. So somebody accused of that may prefer a plea to disorderly conduct over indecent exposure or something else, particularly since those can lead to a sex offender record.