Adam Brandolph's news story “Legal experts question prosecuting South Fayette boy for recording bullies” cites attorney Phil DiLucente's description of the charge of disorderly conduct as including “harassing, annoying or harming another person,” which is misleading at best. While disorderly conduct includes these factors — which can fit almost any action — the heart of disorderly conduct is four behaviors:
1. Fighting, threatening, violent or tumultuous behavior. While generally self-explanatory, an average person has no idea what “tumultuous” means.
2. Using obscene language and/or gestures. Courts have ruled that this type of disorderly conduct is limited to sexually explicit speech.
3. Creating a hazardous or physically offensive condition for no legitimate purpose, such as icing down a public sidewalk or leaving horse manure on a doorstep. It is totally beyond my comprehension that South Fayette District Judge Maureen McGraw-Desmet found recording a bully's taunt fit into this category. This is not hazardous or physically offensive, and it served a legitimate purpose. Voters should seriously question the judge's competency.
4. Making unreasonable noise. This is vague at best.
Finally, the law requires the public be affected.
Disorderly conduct charges are frequently misused by police, sometimes due to a lack of knowledge. Unfortunately, more often, the charge is simply proclaimed for “disagreeing with cop,” even though police are not members of the general public.
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