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Can you go to jail for disturbing the peace?

You didn't mean to cause a disturbance in the middle of the night, but you got a little out of control with your drinking and made a scene in your neighborhood. Unfortunately, this isn't the first time it's happened, so your neighbors want the police to pursue charges against you.

Can the police really charge you for a simple disturbance? Unfortunately, they can. Disorderly conduct is also known as "breach of the peace" in Florida. There are many types of disorderly conduct including inciting a riot, loitering, obstructing traffic and loud or unreasonable noise. For example, if you have a neighbor who plays extremely loud music at certain times of the day or night, he or she could potentially be cited for disturbing the peace.

Sometimes, disorderly conduct can lead to a misdemeanor. Other times, charges turn into felonies. Fortunately, there are several kinds of defenses that work in these cases. For instance, if you're charged for loitering on a property but it's later found that you were on private property and legally able to be there, you could have the charge dropped. Additionally, if you're in public making a speech and are accused of abusive language, it might be possible to fight the charge by claiming your right to freedom of speech as protected by the First Amendment.

Disorderly conduct charges can result in fines and potentially jail time. Since there is a risk of serious penalties, it's a good idea to look into your legal options before you speak to the police. The right help could make a difference.

Source: FindLaw, "Florida Disorderly Conduct Laws," accessed Sep. 19, 2017

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