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How is disorderly conduct defined under Iowa law?

Like most states, Iowa has a disorderly conduct law prohibiting specific acts that disturb the peace or are seriously bothersome to others. However, Iowa's disorderly conduct statute is not simply a "catch-all" that allows police to arrest anyone who is acting boisterously or causing a ruckus; but it does list specific conduct that must be proved in court.

Iowa's disorderly conduct statute prohibits fighting or engaging in other violent activity in a public place or where people are lawfully assembled. It prohibits making excessive noise near a home or public building so as to disturb the occupants. Abusive or threatening language can be charged as disorderly conduct but only if it is likely to cause another person to react violently.

A person can be found guilty of disorderly conduct if they knowingly make an untrue claim that there is a fire or other catastrophe. Finally, the disorderly conduct statute prohibits intentional and public conduct disrespectful to the American flag, while intending or reasonably expecting that the conduct will provoke another person to commit an assault or trespass.

Disorderly conduct is a simple misdemeanor in Iowa. The criminal penalties include a fine of $65 to $625. Instead of the fine, or in addition to it, the court can impose a jail sentence of up to 30 days.

Fortunately, there are a number of defenses to criminal charges of disorderly conduct. In a situation involving a fight, for example, a defendant can get the charges dropped by showing he or she was defending themselves or another person. In cases involving noise or disrespectful treatment of the flag, a defendant can argue that they were exercising their free speech rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Following any type of criminal charge, it is important that the accused is aware of their criminal defense options. This could help the defendant understand their situation, what consequences he or she might face and methods to reduce or even dismiss the charges against them.

Source: Findlaw, "Iowa Disorderly Conduct Laws," accessed Jan. 4, 2016

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