Criminal Justice

Disorderly Conduct is Hot Legal Topic

Legal experts are discussing the elements of a disorderly conduct conviction with the zeal one might expect of appellate attorneys conferring over a death penalty case, as the scandal over Sen. Larry Craig’s recent restroom sting arrest exacerbates.

The Republican lawmaker from Idaho probably could have beaten the rap, according to Dale Carpenter, a University of Minnesota law professor, since it doesn’t appear that any of Craig’s conduct in a Minneapolis-St. Paul airport restroom earlier this summer was clearly criminal. (A disorderly conduct charge is commonly associated with rough conduct, such as a knock-down drag-out bar fight.) However, a second Minnesota law prof tells a Capitol News Company columnist in an article reprinted in USA Today that an aggressive prosecutor could have won the case against Craig even if the senator had mounted an aggressive defense.

While Craig’s “fairly innocuous” alleged disorderly conduct was “right on the edge of what would be criminal,” according to law prof Steve Simon, the police officer’s claim that Craig peered through the stall door at him is more problematic, because it invades a reasonable expectation of privacy.

As discussed in an earlier post, Craig had previously suggested he might seek to reopen his guilty plea but other experts said his chance of succeeding in that effort was virtually nil.

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