Disorderly Conduct in Arizona: ARS 13-2904

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Imagine a heated argument at a neighborhood block party. Voices raise, tempers flare, and what started as a disagreement escalates into a shouting match. Suddenly, someone calls the police, and before you know it, you’re being charged with disorderly conduct.

Situations like this are more common than you might think and can quickly turn an everyday occurrence into a legal nightmare.

Disorderly conduct, as defined by ARS 13-2904, encompasses various behaviors intended to disturb the peace.

This article will cover the following subtopics: 

Disorderly conduct in Arizona is defined under Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) § 13-2904. This statute outlines various behaviors that constitute disorderly conduct, often referred to as disturbing the peace.

According to ARS 13-2904, a person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family, or person, or with knowledge of doing so.

disorderly conduct in public park

What Actions Are Considered Disorderly Conduct? 

Disorderly conduct covers a broad range of actions, which can vary significantly in nature and severity. Actions that fall under disorderly conduct include:

  • Physical Altercations: Engaging in fights or brawls in public places, such as bars, streets, or parks.
  • Loud and Disruptive Behavior: Shouting, playing loud music, or creating excessive noise, especially during late hours in residential areas.
  • Provocative Gestures: Using abusive or offensive language or gestures with the intent to provoke a physical response from others.
  • Disturbances in Public Spaces: Causing disturbances in businesses, meetings, or other lawful assemblies, such as yelling or creating commotions to disrupt activities.
  • Failure to Disperse: Refusing to obey lawful orders from law enforcement to disperse during emergencies, such as near fires or hazardous situations.
  • Misuse of Weapons: Recklessly handling, displaying, or discharging firearms or other dangerous instruments in a manner that disturbs the peace.

Each of these actions must be performed with the intent to disturb the peace or with knowledge that it will disturb the peace, as specified in ARS 13-2904.

Can You Be Arrested For Being Drunk?

In Arizona, public intoxication alone is not a criminal offense, so you cannot be arrested merely for being drunk in public. 

However, if your behavior while intoxicated disturbs the peace or poses a threat to public safety, you may face charges for disorderly conduct. 

This can include actions such as fighting, making excessive noise, or engaging in disruptive behavior. While being drunk itself isn’t illegal, the conduct associated with it can lead to legal consequences. Law enforcement may intervene to maintain order and safety, potentially resulting in arrest if disorderly conduct is observed.

Potential Charges and Penalties

Disorderly conduct charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies, depending on the specific circumstances of the offense:

  • Class 1 Misdemeanor: Most disorderly conduct offenses are classified as Class 1 misdemeanors. Penalties can include up to six months in jail, fines up to $2,500, and probation.
  • Class 6 Felony: Disorderly conduct involving the reckless handling, display, or discharge of a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument is classified as a Class 6 felony. Penalties can include up to two years in prison, higher fines, and more stringent probation conditions.

The exact penalties depend on various factors, including the defendant’s prior criminal history and the specific details of the incident.

domestic violence disorderly conduct

Can a Domestic Violence Altercation Lead to a Disorderly Conduct Charge

Yes, a domestic violence altercation can lead to a disorderly conduct charge in Arizona. If the altercation involves behaviors outlined in ARS 13-2904, such as engaging in fighting, making unreasonable noise, or using abusive language likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation, it can be classified as disorderly conduct.

In domestic violence cases, the disruptive actions may disturb the peace of the neighborhood or family, prompting law enforcement to issue charges. 

What Elements Do Prosecutors Need to Prove?

To secure a conviction for disorderly conduct, the prosecution must establish the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Intent or Knowledge: The defendant acted with the intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family, or person, or knew that their actions would disturb the peace.
  • Prohibited Conduct: The defendant engaged in one or more of the specific behaviors outlined in ARS 13-2904, such as:
    • Engaging in fighting, violent, or seriously disruptive behavior.
    • Making unreasonable noise.
    • Using abusive or offensive language or gestures likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation.
    • Making any protracted commotion, utterance, or display with the intent to prevent the transaction of business at a lawful meeting.
    • Refusing to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard, or any other emergency.
    • Recklessly handling, displaying, or discharging a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.


Evidence the Prosecution May Use

The prosecution may use various types of evidence to prove these elements, including:

  • Witness Testimony: Statements from individuals who witnessed the alleged disorderly conduct, such as neighbors, bystanders, or law enforcement officers.
  • Surveillance Footage: Video recordings from security cameras or mobile devices capturing the defendant’s behavior.
  • Police Reports: Documentation from law enforcement detailing the incident, including observations of the defendant’s actions and any refusal to obey lawful orders.
  • Audio Recordings: Any audio evidence capturing unreasonable noise or abusive language.
  • Physical Evidence: Items such as weapons or other objects used during the incident.

Potential Defense Strategies 


Lack of Intent

One potential defense strategy is to argue that the defendant did not have the intent to disturb the peace or did not know their actions would cause a disturbance. This can be demonstrated by showing that the behavior was accidental or misunderstood, rather than deliberate. 


False Accusations

Another defense is to assert that the allegations are unfounded or that the incident did not occur as described by the prosecution. This may involve presenting evidence that contradicts the prosecution’s version of events, such as alibi witnesses or other forms of exculpatory evidence. In disorderly conduct cases, false accusations are not uncommon, especially in heated situations involving domestic violence disputes or public altercations.


Constitutional Defenses

If the defendant’s actions involved speech or expressive conduct, it might be argued that these actions are protected under the First Amendment right to free speech. This defense is viable if the conduct was not violent or threatening and falls within the scope of protected expression. For example, if you were making an utterance or display with the intent to express a viewpoint at a lawful meeting, this might be a constitutional defense against disorderly conduct charges.



In cases where the defendant’s actions were a response to a threat or attack, it can be argued that the behavior was reasonable under the circumstances. Self-defense may justify actions that would otherwise be considered disorderly. 


Insufficient Evidence

Challenging the sufficiency of the prosecution’s evidence is another strategy. The defense can argue that the evidence presented does not meet the burden of proof required for a conviction, such as lack of credible witnesses or unreliable testimony. 

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney

Arja Shah | Shah Law Firm If you or a loved one is facing disorderly conduct charges in Arizona, it’s crucial to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Arja Shah specializes in defending clients against a wide range of criminal charges, including disorderly conduct.

For a free consultation, contact Arja Shah Law today at (602) 560-7408. We are committed to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your case.

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