Phoenix Police Officers Found Guilty of Disorderly Conduct
We talk about disorderly conduct charges quite a bit because, frankly, they are not difficult to get. We are going to look at the statutes in this article today, but we first want to bring up a recent case here in Phoenix.
A Phoenix police officer and union leader recently made the news when he was caught on video slapping a handcuffed shoplifting suspect.
The incident began when Officer Tim Baiardi was working as private security for the Walmart off 52nd Avenue and Indian School Road back in December 2018. The video shows Roger Moran, the man suspected of shoplifting, walk into the store’s loss prevention room. Officer Baiardi slapped him as soon as he sits down.
As with most of these situations, this is not the whole story. A second video shows the two fighting moments before when Baiardi confronts Moran as he was putting on brand new jeans from the store. As he tries to handcuff him, Moran resists the efforts.
We need to point out that, regardless of how much Moran struggled and resisted, it is not okay for an officer to slap a handcuffed suspect. The Phoenix Police Department opened a criminal investigation and charged Officer Baiardi with aggravated assault a month later.
Baiardi has pleaded guilty to a lower charge of disorderly conduct. He will be sentenced in August and could spend up to six months in jail.
Not all disorderly conduct charges are right
We have spoken before about disorderly conduct charges. While there are situations where these charges are appropriate, there are times when it is just too easy to catch one. When we turn to the ARS 13-2904, we can see that disorderly conduct is a Class 1 Misdemeanor and is defined as:
A person commits disorderly conduct if, with intent to disturb the peace or quiet of a neighborhood, family or person, or with knowledge of doing so, such person:
- Engages in fighting, violent or seriously disruptive behavior; or
- Makes unreasonable noise; or
- Uses abusive or offensive language or gestures to any person present in a manner likely to provoke immediate physical retaliation by such person; or
- Makes any protracted commotion, utterance or display with the intent to prevent the transaction of the business of a lawful meeting, gathering or procession; or
- Refuses to obey a lawful order to disperse issued to maintain public safety in dangerous proximity to a fire, a hazard or any other emergency; or
- Recklessly handles, displays or discharges a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
These charges carry penalties of up to 6 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A person can face a Class 6 Felony charge of disorderly conduct if they recklessly handle, display, or discharge a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument. The penalty for these charges is much harsher, with a mandatory 1.5 years in prison.
What these charges often end up being
We often call disorderly conduct charges “catch-all” because there are so many ways that people’s behavior, or even perceived behavior, can result in a charge. As written, the laws make it subjective for police officers – they simply have too much discretion. Making an unreasonable noise? Using offensive hand gestures?
If you or someone you love has been charged with disorderly conduct, seek assistance from an Arizona criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Do not let these low-level offenses end up giving you a permanent mark on your criminal record and affecting your ability to find a job or go to school.