New Law Would Amend Definition of Disorderly Conduct
In response to a disturbing video of two adolescents fighting while at school, which went viral after an onlooker posted a recording, Illinois representative Terry Brant introduced a bill that would criminalize the uploading of such videos. Under the new bill, posting recordings of violent or illegal situations on social media websites would constitute disorderly conduct and be punishable as a Class A misdemeanor.
To commit the offense of disorderly conduct under current Illinois law, a person must have knowingly committed any act in such an unreasonable manner as to alarm another and to provoke a breach of the peace.
A person can also be charged with disorderly conduct if he or she falsely reports, knowing that there is no reasonable basis for believing that danger exists, any of the following events:
- A fire alarm;
- A bomb threat;
- A threat to a school;
- A criminal offense;
- Child abuse or neglect;
- Elder abuse; or
- Any false report to a public safety agency.
Further behaviors that constitute disorderly conduct include:
- Calling 911 when there is no emergency;
- Requesting an ambulance when emergency medical care is not required;
- Trespassing on the property of another for a lewd or unlawful purpose; and
- Making harassing telephone calls on behalf of a collection agency.
House Bill 4419
If passed, House Bill 4419 would alter the definition of disorderly conduct to include uploading certain videos to social media, including recordings of:
- A crime being committed;
- Gang-related fights;
- Batteries committed with the intent to cause another person to become unconscious; or
- Other displays of violence.
In order to sustain a charge of disorderly conduct for this act, a prosecutor must also show that the accused either:
- Uploaded the video with the intent to promote or condone the activity; or
- Refused to provide law enforcement officials with the uploaded video upon request.
House Bill 4419 would make it a Class A misdemeanor to commit this offense, which is considered the most serious type of misdemeanor and is one step below a felony. Class A misdemeanors are punishable by a one year prison sentence and the payment of a $2,500 fine.
Critics have raised concerns about the potential repercussions of the bill on the right to free speech, as it would significantly limit citizens’ ability to express themselves online. Furthermore, others have raised doubts about the provision requiring proof of intent in order to sustain a charge of disorderly conduct, as it would be highly difficult, if not impossible, to demonstrate in many situations. Finally, advocates argue that the bill represents a dangerous and damaging trend of over-criminalizing teenage behavior.
If you or your child has been charged with disorderly conduct, it is essential to retain the services of an experienced defense attorney who may be able to reduce your charges. Please contact the Naperville criminal defense attorneys at Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC for a free consultation.