What is Considered Disorderly Conduct in Illinois?

The charge of Disorderly Conduct is a criminal offense under Illinois Law.  Disorderly Conduct is a broad term that encompasses a lot of activity and has an equally broad range of accompanying punishment.

Illinois Statute 720 ILCS 5/26-1 outlines all the prohibited behavior and sentences for violations.  There are twelve entries for disorderly conduct in this statute.  The first element of the offense is intent, which requires a person to knowingly commit the crime.  The requisite intent here means that you must do the criminal act with awareness and understanding of what you are doing.

Acts Considered Disorderly Conduct

The first action described under this statute is the most broad and includes a variety of circumstances, stating a person commits disorderly conduct by knowingly doing “any act in such unreasonable manner as to alarm or disturb another and to provoke a breach of the peace.”  This refers to a common exception to the First Amendment right to Free Speech, the so-called “fighting words” doctrine.  Although our Constitution provides maximum protection for self-expression, one limitation is on those words or acts that are commonly offensive and would provoke retaliation.  See City of Harvard v. Gaut.

Next, the statute prohibits raising a false alarm to anyone in any way a bomb threat that could endanger human life.  Also prohibited is to make a threat of harm or violence to someone affiliated with a school, whether or not school is in session at the time of the threat.

The other entries under this statute involve false reporting of some kind.  Among the prohibited conduct is creating a false alarm to any public safety officer, public employee, police, or 911 dispatcher any report of harm or violence that isn’t true.  This includes making false reports of abuse or neglect to children or seniors.

Peeping into someone’s home, whether for a lewd purpose or any other unlawful purpose (like burglary) is also punishable as disorderly conduct.

Lastly, debt collectors can be charged under this statute making a collection call to a supposed debtor meant to harass or intimidate them.

Possible Punishment

Doing any act to unreasonably disturb the peace, the first section mentioned above, is considered a Class C misdemeanor.  The potential punishment for this classification is up to 30 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500.  Falsely reporting acts of elder abuse or other violent crime is a Class B misdemeanor, which could be punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a maximum fine of $1,500.  Falsely reporting a threat to public safety or unlawfully looking into someone’s home is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

A false fire alarm, threats against a school, false crime report, false 911 call, false report of child abuse, or false call for an ambulance is a Class 4 felony punishable by 1-3 years in jail.  A fake bomb threat is a Class 3 felony, punishable by 2-5 years in jail and carries an additional penalty of an added fine of between $3,000 and $10,000 and an order to pay for the costs of the emergency response efforts.

Lastly, criminal conduct by a debt collector is considered a business offense and may be punished by a maximum fine of $3,000.

The charge of Disorderly Conduct can be very serious and carry harsh punishment.  If you or someone you know has been accused of this crime, you should seek the immediate advice of a qualified Illinois Criminal Defense Attorney.

Practice Areas

Our Blog