The most common version of disorderly conduct requires the prosecutor prove
that a person engaged in conduct
in any street, highway, public building, or public place
having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person a whom such conduct is directed
As you can see, the definition is very broad, but there are important limitations that aren't apparent just by reading the language of the statute.
The first important thing about disorderly conduct is words alone cannot result in a conviction. In other words, if the only thing you did was talk, yell, or scream, you can't be convicted of disorderly conduct. You may be charged with a different crime, but it can't be disorderly conduct.
As was discussed above, you can't be convicted of disorderly conduct based on words alone. You must do more than say something. That means you can exercise your right to free speech without needing to worrying about being charged with disorderly conduct. It's important to note, however, that you can be convicted of other crimes for speech. If you threaten to burn someone's house, you can be charged with a crime. If you threaten somebody over the phone, you can be convicted of a crime. If you encourage someone else to commit a crime, you can be convicted of a crime.
Disorderly conduct is a Class 1 misdemeanor. A Class 1 misdemeanor is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. It is very unlikely that you will be facing anything close to the maximum punishment in the vast majority of disorderly conduct cases.
A conviction for disorderly conduct will be a permanent criminal conviction. Once you've been convicted, it cannot be expunged unless you receive a pardon from the Governor. Please contact us to discuss your options.