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Protests and Disorderly Conduct Charges | Eisenberg Law

How Protests Can Lead to Disorderly Conduct Charges in Wisconsin

Like much of the nation, Wisconsin saw an increase in the number of protests held in the state after the 2020 deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the resulting societal unrest. In some cases, what began as peaceful protests turned into violent incidents and scary situations for both police and protestors. As a result, the state saw an increase in disorderly conduct charges.

Wisconsin Disorderly Conduct Laws

Disorderly conduct falls under Chapter 947 of Wisconsin State Law. Chapter 947 governs “crimes against public peace, order and other interests,” and disorderly conduct falls at the very top of the list. The statute defines disorderly conduct as:

  • “Whoever, in a public or private place, engages in violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous, unreasonably loud, or otherwise disorderly conduct under circumstances in which the conduct tends to cause or provoke a disturbance.”

It is considered a Class B misdemeanor that carries fines of up to $1000 and/or 90 days in jail if convicted. If convicted, you may also lose your firearms privileges, have a restraining order placed against you, be forced to undergo mandatory counseling, and will have a mark on your permanent record which can affect your employment and housing options.

Disorderly conduct charges are difficult to navigate because they are very subjective. A disagreement between neighbors could lead to one party filing charges against the other simply for having a loud party. Even quiet and peaceful protests can lead to disorderly conduct charges if just one person decides to make a formal complaint.

Unlawful assembly is commonly applied against protestors. Unlawful assembly also falls under Chapter 947 and is defined as “a gathering of 3 or more people that causes enough disturbance for law enforcement to believe that it will cause injury or damage to people and/or property”. This may include activities that:

  • Block roads and highways
  • Block sidewalks and/or access points to public or private buildings
  • Block access to retail stores, medical providers, grocery stores, etc.

Unlawful assembly is a Class A misdemeanor. If convicted, a person can be fined up to $10,000 and/or may face up to 9 months in prison.

When Protests Lead to Arrests, Call Eisenberg Law

Being arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting often comes as a surprise to participants. It is very easy to get caught up in the action or for police to round up everyone in the vicinity of the disruption without regard for who was actually acting in a violent manner. Remember, simply engaging in protests is not enough to warrant a conviction for disorderly conduct. Given the subjective nature of these types of charges and the stress and emotions at play during the event, it is very easy for a peaceful protestor to be wrongly accused of disorderly conduct. When this occurs, there is a strong chance your charges can be reduced or cleared with the right defense strategy.

If you are facing disorderly conduct charges in Wisconsin, speak with an attorney at Eisenberg Law Offices. We can examine the evidence against you and the charges you are facing to develop a clear strategy that ensures your side of the story is heard.

Contact our office at 608-256-8356 or email to arrange a free consultation.



Eisenberg Law has successfully represented our clients in thousands of Personal Injury, Criminal Defense and Family Law Cases during our 30-plus years in business.