Rethinking Disorderly Conduct

Jamelia N. Morgan
Disorderly conduct laws are a combination of common law offenses aimed at protecting the public order, peace, and tranquility. Yet, contrary to common legal conceptions, the criminalization of disorderly conduct is not just about policing behavior that threatens to disrupt public order or even the public's peace and tranquility. Policing disorderly conduct reflects and reinforces deeply rooted discriminatory understandings about what behavior-and which persons-violate community norms. By
more » ... on a false dichotomy between "order" and "disorder," disorderly conduct laws construct and reinforce a hierarchy of normative behaviors that are imbued with racism, sexism, and ableism. Disorderly conduct laws "otherize" certain nonconforming behaviors, delegitimize them through the label of "disorderly," and in doing so exclude certain historically marginalized groups from normative conceptions of community. They do this in part by prohibiting a wide range of behaviors and conferring vast amounts of discretion upon law enforcement and private citizens to target individuals for behavior regulation, physical removal, and community exclusion. These laws often determine access to shared community spaces, resulting in the exclusion of historically marginalized groups from these purportedly "public" spaces. In this way, disorderly conduct laws delineate and police the normative boundaries of communities.
doi:10.15779/z38kd1qm20 fatcat:mhwa3wtf35hyljntsm22s6fexa