A man had been out with friends, had a few too many drinks at a local establishment, got a little rowdy, and, when a female officer responded to the rowdy people, the man mistakenly believed that the officer was a stripper. The man was quoted as saying "[l]ook, here is one of the strippers" shortly before throwing a bar towel in the officer's face. When the female officer told the man what to do, the man ignored those orders, and I am sure that he made some inappropriate comments to her about taking off her police uniform and giving him a show. Not only did the man's fantasy of having a woman in uniform strip for him not come to fruition, but he was instead arrested and charged by the officer.
Public Drunkenness and Disorderly Conduct
As a State College criminal defense attorney, I routinely represent Penn State University Park and Altoona students, visitors and alums to those schools, as well many other people that get into trouble after drinking. Had this happened in Centre County, the man would likely have been charged with a summary offense of Public Drunkenness and either a summary or misdemeanor charge of Disorderly Conduct. A charge of Public Drunkenness under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5505 prohibits a person from appearing in a public place while manifestly under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance to the degree that he may endanger himself or other persons or property, or annoy persons in his vicinity. If the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol and was annoying people at the bar, then he could be charged with Public Drunkenness. A Pennsylvania charge of Public Drunknness is punishable by up to 90 days in jail, and the maximum fine is $500.00 for a first offense and up to $1,000.00 for every subsequent offense. A conviction of a summary offense like Public Drunkenness and Underage Drinking do appear on many criminal background searches.
The man could also be charged with Disorderly Conduct under 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 5503 if he intentionally caused a public inconvenience by making unreasonable noise. Normally, the charge is a summary offense, but the severity can be increased to a third degree misdemeanor if the man persisted in disorderly conduct after reasonable warnings or requests to stop were issued. In this case, whether the man was charged with a summary offense or a misdemeanor offense would depend upon how many times the officer ordered the man to settle down before he actually stopped.
Centre County First Time Offender Programs
If the man were only charged with summary offenses of Disorderly Conduct and Public Drunkenness, there are times that agreements can be reached with the officer and accepted by the judges that allow the man to pay court costs, complete community service, and have the charges dismissed. Many people do not realize that dismissed charges remain on a person's record, so the charges must be expunged to have the records removed from the government's databases.
If the man were charged with a misdemeanor offense, then the prosecution of the case would be handled by an attorney from the Centre County District Attorney's Office and not just the police officer. The District Attorney may permit the man to participate in a pretrial diversionary program called Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition, or ARD. The program requires a participant to be subject to supervision by the county probation department, complete community service, pay costs and fees, and possibly complete counseling or other rehabilitative programs. Completion of the ARD program does NOT result in the automatic dismissal and expungement of the charges. Instead, a person becomes eligible to seek expungement upon completion of the program, but a motion to dismiss and a petition to expunge must be filed with the court to facilitate those processes. If the ARD participant never files the proper paperwork, the charges will remain as "pending" on the government's records. While handling an ARD-type of case is relatively easy for an experienced criminal defense attorney, I do not generally recommend that people represent themselves. I have talked to too many people over the years that attempted to represent themselves, didn't understand what they were required to do, violated the program, and then hired an attorney to try and fix it after the fact. It is simply easier to get an attorney at the beginning of a criminal case and thereby know that everything is being done correctly.