Q: Should we fight a disorderly conduct charge?
The school questioned my child about a fight at school and they listed her as a witness and now she is being charged with disorderly conduct for knowing the fight was going to happen and not advising the staff. Can the court use the statement she gave the school?
A: Merely knowing about someone elses crime does not make you guilty of that crime. Based on what you have said, I think the only real risk would be if it turns out that she not only knew about the fight, but had somehow encouraged the fight, egged the other kids on, or was somehow involved more than just "knowing" about it. Under Utah law, that could make her responsible as a "party" to the offense.
Normally, when charged under the State code (76-9-102), disorderly conduct is an infraction. If the person continues the "disorderly conduct" after being asked to stop, it can become a class C misdemeanor. A class C misdemeanor is punishable by up to 90 days jail plus a fine, but an infraction only carries a potential fine. As a juvenile, she could not be put in jail, but could theoretically be placed in a juvenile detention facility if it were charged as a misdemeanor. Based on what you have said, the risk of that happening is probably slim to none.
As a defense attorney, I have to leave the ultimate question of whether to fight the charge up to my client. But with what you've said here, she doesn't run any great risks by fighting it. And if she's not guilty, fighting the charge makes sense.
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