When Love of Your Team Leads to Disorderly Conduct Charges

April 18th, 2014 by Attorney Dan Carman

How disappointing was UK’s loss to UConn in the 2014 NCAA championship game? Don’t remind you, right? UK was so close to pulling it off. If only the Cats had had another couple minutes to turn things around, Lexington would be celebrating victory instead of defeat, and couches wouldn’t be burning on State Street. Well, that last part might not be true. Recent news reports indicate fans like to torch couches whether Big Blue wins or loses. And where there are burning couches and similar shenanigans, there will be arrests for disorderly conduct, because Lexington’s police force takes the safety of its citizens seriously.

Disorderly conduct charges are misdemeanor charges. Kentucky Revised Statutes dictate jail time of up to 90 days and a $250 fine payment for someone found guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree, while persons found guilty of disorderly conduct in the first degree face 90 days to up to 12 months in jail and up to $500 in fines.

Statutes define disorderly conduct as activities that include engaging in fighting or in “violent, tumultuous, or threatening behavior;” or making unreasonable noise; or refusing to “obey an official order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, hazard, or other emergency;” or “creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act that serves no legitimate purpose.”

If you’re in a public place and you’re observed by a member of law enforcement doing any of these things “with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or wanton creating a risk thereof,” chances are you’ll be arrested and charged with at least disorderly conduct in the second degree. If you’re observed doing any of these things 300 feet or less from a funeral or cemetery, there are certain times when your arrest charges will be treated as a first degree misdemeanor, meaning you may face more jail time and a bigger fine.

After Kentucky’s disappointing loss to UConn, Lexington officials reported 17 couch fires in the State Street area and 14 injuries by just past midnight (the game ended a few minutes after 11:00 p.m.). In addition to the couch fires, police reports noted fights, bottle throwing, fireworks, and “other mischief.” Amazingly, despite all this disorderliness, only six people had been arrested by 1:30 a.m. In contrast, when UK beat Wisconsin in the Final Four just two days before the championship game, police made 21 arrests, while the fire department put out over 80 fires.

So what was the difference? Maybe most of the couches were gone by Monday—burned on Saturday? Maybe Monday night’s cold rain played a part? Did it douse couch fires before they became conflagrations—and dampen fans’ rowdy spirits at the same time? Maybe fans saw arrests being made Saturday and made mental notes to keep their misconduct to a tolerable level following the final game? Or maybe (just maybe) law enforcement exercised a little extra tolerance, knowing fans would be out, win or lose, and let them blow off steam before they headed home?

Turns out that, while police may have exercised more tolerance, they actually had a little steam of their own to blow the crowds home, something called “pepperballs” that release a substance similar to pepper spray. Knowing what pepper spray does—it gets in your eyes, causing intense pain, tears, and temporary blindness—it’s not hard to imagine the effect pepperballs had on fans. At least it apparently also had the desired effect police were aiming for: crowd dispersal in a hurry.

If you were on State Street after the game and witnessed disorderly conduct on one side, police efforts to maintain crowd control on the other, and you wisely kept your own conduct in check and left before things got out of hand, congratulate yourself! But, if you let things get out of hand and ended up being arrested, give Dan Carman a call. Dan is a Lexington criminal defense lawyer familiar with defending citizens who’ve found themselves on the wrong side of a disorderly conduct charge, and he can help you now. Call him at 859-685-1055, or fill out his free and confidential online form.