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What Is A "Disorderly Person" Charge In Michigan?

Michigan's disorderly person statutes are intended to be "catch-all" provisions that criminalize and punish conduct that is not otherwise specifically proscribed in the Michigan penal code. These statutes cover a very wide range of behavior which could result in a misdemeanor conviction punishable by a fine, probation or even jail time. This charge is not to be taken lightly.

A person is a disorderly person if the prosecutor can prove that the person is ANY of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • A person of sufficient ability who refuses or neglects to support his or her family. MCL 750.167(1)(a).
  • A common prostitute. MCL 750.167(1)(b).
  • A window peeper. MCL 750.167(1)(c).
  • A person who engages in an illegal occupation or business. MCL 750.167(1)(d).
  • A person who is intoxicated in a public place and who is either endangering directly the safety of another person or of property or is acting in a manner that causes a public disturbance. MCL 750.167(1)(e).
  • A person who is engaged in indecent or obscene conduct in a public place. MCL 750.167(1)(f). A mother's breastfeeding of a child or expressing breast milk does not constitute indecent or obscene conduct regardless of whether or not her areola or nipple is visible during or incidental to the breastfeeding or expressing of breast milk. MCL 750.167(3).
  • A vagrant. MCL 750.167(1)(g).
  • A person found begging in a public place. MCL 750.167(1)(h). NOTE: This provision of the disorderly person statute was deemed to be unconstitutional as a violation of the free speech protections of the First Amendment. Speet v. Schuette, 889 F. Supp. 2d 969 (W.D. Mich. 2012).
  • A person found loitering in a house of ill fame or prostitution or place where prostitution or lewdness is practiced, encouraged, or allowed. MCL 750.167(1)(i).
  • A person who knowingly loiters in or about a place where an illegal occupation or business is being conducted. MCL 750.167(1)(j).
  • A person who loiters in or about a police station, police headquarters building, county jail, hospital, court building, or other public building or place for the purpose of soliciting employment of legal services or the services of sureties upon criminal recognizances. MCL 750.167(1)(k).
  • A person who is found jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place. MCL 750.167(1)(l).
  • "Any person who shall be drunk or intoxicated while hunting with a firearm or other weapon under a valid hunting license shall be deemed to be a disorderly person. Upon conviction of such person, the weapon shall be confiscated and shall be delivered to the department of natural resources for disposition in the same manner as weapons confiscated for other violations of the game laws. Upon conviction under this section, the person so convicted, in addition to any punishment [imposed for disorderly person], and as a part of any sentence imposed, shall be forbidden to apply for or possess a hunting license for a period of 3 years following the date of conviction. A violation of the conditions of such sentence shall be deemed to be a misdemeanor." MCL 750.167a.
  • "A person shall not do any of the following within 500 feet of a building or other location where a funeral, memorial service, or viewing of a deceased person is being conducted or within 500 feet of a funeral procession or burial:"
  1. "Make any statement or gesture or engage in any conduct that would make a reasonable person attending that funeral, memorial service, viewing, procession, or burial under the circumstances feel intimidated, threatened, or harassed." MCL 750.167d(1)(a).
  2. "Make any statement or gesture or engage in any conduct intended to incite or produce a breach of the peace among those attending that funeral, memorial service, viewing, or burial or traveling in that procession and that causes a breach of the peace among those attending that funeral, memorial service, viewing, or burial or traveling in that procession." MCL 750.167d(1)(b).
  3. "Make any statement or gesture or engage in any conduct intended to disrupt the funeral, memorial service, viewing, procession, or burial and that disrupts the funeral, memorial service, viewing, procession, or burial." MCL 750.167d(1)(c).

A person convicted of being a disorderly person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine up to $500.00, or both, BUT WITH TWO EXCEPTIONS:

  • If a person who has been convicted of refusing or neglecting to support his or her family under this section is charged with subsequent violations within a period of 2 years, that person shall be prosecuted as a second offender or third and subsequent offender and punished by a felony conviction that includes imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both, if the family of that person is then receiving public relief or support. MCL 750.167(2).
  • A person who, contrary to MCL 750.167d, is prosecuted as a disorderly person within 500 feet of a building or other location where a funeral, memorial service, or viewing of a deceased person is being conducted or within 500 feet of a funeral procession or burial is subject to a felony conviction punished as follows:
  1. For a first offense, by imprisonment for not more than 2 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both. MCL 750.168(2)(a).
  2. For a second or subsequent offense, by imprisonment for not more than 4 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both. MCL 750.168(2)(b).

The prosecutor has the burden of proof to show that you were a disorderly person beyond a reasonable doubt. Interestingly enough, many of the disorderly person offenses are status offenses, meaning that the person can be guilty of being a certain status (e.g. common prostitute, vagrant) rather than actually engaging in a certain act (e.g. soliciting prostitution or loitering). As stated before, this is a "catch-all" law intended to punish undesirable conduct not otherwise covered in the penal code. Given the huge amount of discretion that prosecutors have in charging this conduct, a person accused of this crime can benefit from the services of an attorney in his or her corner. In addition to trying to secure an acquittal in a trial, a skilled criminal defense lawyer may help secure one of the following resolutions:

  • Plea Bargain: The prosecutor may offer that the defendant plead to a civil infraction in exchange for dismissing the misdemeanor offense, which can avoid a criminal conviction.
  • Holmes Youthful Trainee Act: The judge may grant Holmes Youthful Trainee Status (HYTS) to an offender between 17 and 25 years of age. If the defendant completes a period of probation without violation, then a criminal conviction can be avoided.
  • Conditional Future Dismissal: The judge may grant delayed sentencing status under MCL 771.1 where, if the defendant completes a period of probation not exceeding one year without violation, the criminal conviction may be dismissed. Not all judges or courts utilize this tool.

Besides the state statute, nearly all municipalities in the State of Michigan have their own version of disorderly person ordinances that may encompass even more conduct that the legislature has proscribed. If you or a loved one is charged with disorderly person or any other crime, do not hesitate to contact the experienced attorneys at Kershaw, Vititoe & Jedinak today.

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