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The phrase “crossing the line” is defined as “to change from being acceptable to being unacceptable.” (freedictionary.com) We’ve probably all been in situations where someone has crossed the line. Maybe it was the friend who took a prank too far. Perhaps a co-worker told a joke that was offensive rather than funny. From outdoor concerts to Twins games, summer seems to bring out behaviors that have “crossed the line,” especially when alcohol is involved. Words and actions can quickly shift from good-natured to obnoxious and even to the extent where disorderly conduct charges are filed.

In Minnesota, a person commits a crime of disorderly conduct when they engage in these behaviors:

  • brawling or fighting
  • disturbing a gathering or meeting
  • using offensive, obscene or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger or resentment in others; or
  • behaving in an offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous or manner

To be guilty of disorderly conduct, the person charged must have known or had reason to know that their actions would alarm, anger, or disturb others, or provoke a violent reaction. This statute leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Often times people who find themselves charged with disorderly conduct believe their conduct did not run afoul of the law. Other times, they may question whether their words or conduct was protected by the First Amendment right to free speech.

Under Minnesota state law, public intoxication is not a crime. Behavior resulting from having too much to drink, such as driving under the influence, damaging property, or taking a swing at someone, can lead to criminal charges. Furthermore, the fact that you were intoxicated at the time is seldom a defense.

If you or someone you know have engaged in behavior that may have crossed the line and are facing disorderly conduct charges, you need to consult with an experienced attorney. We understand that there are two sides to every story and we will listen to you. By combining our extensive knowledge of the law with your account of the situation, we will develop the best strategy for your case.