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How do I defend a failure to disperse charge?

When you receive notice of an Ohio criminal charge of failing to disperse, typically the charging authority is alleging that you disobeyed a law enforcement officer’s command that you leave the area where you were. However, as noted by the Ohio Revised Code, there are several elements that the state must be prove in order to convict you of this misdemeanor charge. As such, you will want to review the evidence to see if the proof is lacking as to any one or more elements of that charge.

Must be with a group of people

First, you have to be present with a group of people, when the situation arises.  If you are only there with one friend, or are by yourself, you can argue that one of the elements of the crime is missing. Section 2917.04 specifies that there must be at least five people present, including yourself.

Must be violating the Disorderly Conduct code section

Secondly, the group of you must be acting in a disorderly fashion such that your behavior is a violation of Ohio’s Disorderly Conduct code section. Some kinds of group activity that can rise to the level of disorderly conduct may include:

  • Making excessive noise or expressing offensive and crude language or gestures
  • Threatening harm, fighting or acting violently
  • Forming a tangibly offensive situation or one that creates risk of physical danger if you have no legal or acceptable reason
  • Affronting or mocking another in a way that is likely to cause a forceful or aggressively physical reaction
  • Physically impeding others from moving about on public roads or about public or private property in a way that restricts of their rights to do so, if you have no legal or acceptable reason.

Must be others in the area as well

There must also be other people beside your allegedly disorderly group in the location. That group’s presence must create a risk of trouble ensuing, such as physical injury to people or creating fear, aggravation, or nuisance to the public.