Disorderly conduct offenses are crimes that in any way disrupt the “peace and dignity” of society as a whole. These type of accusations range from the teenage prank that results in a criminal mischief charge to a major felony domestic battery prosecution.
In my legal practice a bulk of the defense cases I work on center on these types of cases that often have many different fact patterns. Unlike a theft prosecution or dui defense where the prosecution witnesses typically do not know the accused, disorderly offenses can be easily brought against good people by accusers and/or witness with a specific motive in mind.
For example, ex spouses with child support disagreements or passions, neighbors who have problems with how one conducts their daily activities or the claimed auto accident victim who has a profit motive for constructing a criminal accusation against an innocent individual are all the types of accusers in disorderly prosecutions who often must be challenged.
It is through the taking of witness depositions that many of these cases are resolved without the need for trial litigation. Where a particular motive exists for the fabrication or exaggeration of evidence, it is through effective pretrial cross examination within such a deposition that can secure the favorable outcome.
Not uncommonly, it is often the case that one with a personal vendetta or incentive to embellish the truth will simply not show up for a court trial or proceeding once it has dawned upon them that the penalty of perjury exists. Although the crime of false informing exists in the state of Indiana, it is the opinion of many defense attorneys that it is not enforced enough in these type of situations against witnesses who have abused the court process for personal gain.
The reality of many prosecutions in Indiana is that when a prosecutor and/or police officer has initially advocated the position of such a complaining witness it is hard for them to acknowledge the reality that they may have played a part in victimizing the wrong person.
For this reason, time and time again, prosecutors will claim that such offenses are “crimes against society” and not necessarily a crime against a specific victim. This attitude is significant where my clients do not understand why a prosecutor refuses to dismiss a case where the complaining witness recants his or her testimony. In such cases a trial setting is often required in order to force the state’s hand to dismiss such a case with a unreliable and/or discredited witness.
More concerning are when disorderly accusations escalate into major felonies. For example, although the majority of these types of offenses are misdemeanors, disorderly offenses can also be amended by a prosecutor to include such felony offenses as criminal recklessness, battery with serious bodily injury, resisting arrest felonies, even murder.
A defense attorney must take action quickly to intervene in a prosecution before full filing decisions of such charges have been made and options have been concluded. In criminal cases there are deadlines for the negotiation of favorable terms and conditions that may allow for a case to be settled successfully without the need or risk of trial or the escalation of potential disorderly charges.