Disorderly Conduct is a state law offense defined as a violation punishable by a fine of up to $1,000.00. However, if you continue to be disorderly after a request to stop it can be charged as a misdemeanor criminal offense and carry a maximum fine of $1,200 or $2,000 and a jail sentence of up to 12 months if charged at the highest level, a class A misdemeanor. Often people who are arrested are released from the police station without a clear understanding of their charge. Further complicating matters is that the “Disorderly Conduct” law encompasses lots of different things: fighting in public, obscene or offensive language likely to provoke a violent reaction, obstructing traffic, interfering with a criminal investigation, or refusing to comply with a lawful order of a police officer. (For a full list please follow the link to the law, NH RSA 644:2)
While being processed at the police station most defendants will have their bail set by a bail commissioner and the paperwork, called “Bond In Criminal Case” will indicate a court date. The first court date in a criminal case is usually the arraignment, and not the trial date. An arraignment is a preliminary hearing where the Judge will review the case to make sure the defendant is aware of the charge against him or her and allow them to enter an initial plea. Most people enter a “not guilty” plea at arraignment which preserves all their rights to later have a trial or negotiate a plea bargain. If you plead guilty at arraignment the judge will find you guilty and sentence you that day. It is almost impossible to undue a guilty plea. If you plead “not guilty” the court will assign a trial date that is usually a month or two away. (Pleading “not guilty” is like saying “Not ready yet” and simply puts off the final decision.) You will have that additional time to decide what to do. It is best to seek legal representation before the arraignment, but you can also plead “not guilty” and contact Criminal Defense Attorney Joanne M. Stella after the arraignment for a free consultation.