Disorderly Conduct in Minnesota: The Statute

ABC News has the plea disposition document from the Minnesota Court in Sen. Larry Craig's bathroom arrest. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct (Section 609.72.1) and a second charge of invasion of privacy was dismissed. Here's the statute (via Lexis):

609.72 DISORDERLY CONDUCT Subdivision 1. Crime.

Whoever does any of the following in a public or private place, including on a school bus, knowing, or having reasonable grounds to know that it will, or will tend to, alarm, anger or disturb others or provoke an assault or breach of the peace, is guilty of disorderly conduct, which is a misdemeanor:

(1) Engages in brawling or fighting; or
(2) Disturbs an assembly or meeting, not unlawful in its character; or
(3) Engages in offensive, obscene, abusive, boisterous, or noisy conduct or in offensive, obscene, or abusive language tending reasonably to arouse alarm, anger, or resentment in others.

A person does not violate this section if the person's disorderly conduct was caused by an epileptic seizure.

Seems like Subsection 3 is the applicable one. Parsing the words, I think you have to forego boisterous or noisy. That leaves the charge that tapping the floor with his foot, putting his hand under the bathroom stall and tapping the foot of the occupant in the next stall is offensive, obscene or abusive.


I doubt it can be considered obscene since there's no mention of any particular gesture he made with his hand to signify anything "obscene."

Is it offensive? That seems like a stretch as well. I bet there are tons of people who would be perplexed at seeing a hand come under the stall wall, but offended? As to the foot-touching, I think most people would chalk it up to an accidental touching and move their own foot further away. Where was the officer's foot anyway? In front of him or spread out to the stall wall, hoping to engage the foot of the occupant next to him?

Ok, enough details. One other thought. If the cop was a drug agent, I could see him making a bust based on the same facts alleging Craig wanted to sell him drugs. "He tapped on the floor to get my attention, then tapped my foot, then put his hand under the stall. I assumed he had crack in his hand he was trying to sell me so I put my badge under the stall and busted him."

What a subjective determination.

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  • Display: Sort:
    "disorderly conduct" (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by rageahol on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 12:52:38 AM EST
    in my experience, this serves as a catchall category for cops when theyre not sure what to charge you with. ive personally been charged with disorderly conduct for fighting, for being nearly naked (within what i thought was the letter of the law) in a public space, and for being intoxicated on things other than alcohol in a public space.

    its very vague.

    I don't think most people would (none / 0) (#1)
    by Maryb2004 on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 11:19:30 PM EST
    chalk up the foot touching to accidental touching.  A foot coming under a bathroom stall and touching yours - when yours is within the walls of your stall?   How on earth can that be accidental?

    I agree that someone could be perplexed with the hand - I'd probably wonder if they needed toilet paper.  UNLESS the foot touching happened first in which case I'd assume I had a nut case next door.  

    I would classify it as offensive. And if there was no one else in the rest room I would classify it as frightening.  

    Now, whether it's worth a sting operation I don't know.  

    Craig leering through crack in the stall preceded (none / 0) (#5)
    by magster on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 09:39:38 AM EST
    all the other stuff.

    Still a weak case, but that adds some harassment to Craig's behavior.


    The undercover vice cop could see (none / 0) (#6)
    by oculus on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 11:47:56 AM EST
    his blue eyes.  

    If I had sons, I wouldn't be very happy to have Craig lurking about in the men's room.


    I know you're a defense lawyer, but... (none / 0) (#2)
    by jerry on Mon Aug 27, 2007 at 11:27:30 PM EST
    You wouldn't be offended by a hand coming under the stall walls?

    You wouldn't be offended by a foot that wasn't just under the wall, but made it all the way over to your foot?

    Colorado must have awfully thin bathroom stalls!  The ones out my way are so wide that I cannot imagine the contortion needed to get two feet to touch.

    Seems to me (none / 0) (#4)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 07:35:10 AM EST
      That Craig could have "won" his case in court whether he was charged under this statute or one prohibiting lewd conduct, etc.

       I'd suspect that he thought he could slip under the radar simply by copping a plea to disorderly but that going to court would bring terrible publicity regardless of the outcome of the case.

      Hoping that  maybe  no one would  peruse inferior court records in Minnesota and connect a trivial offense to an Idaho Senator-- with a relatively common name-- might seem  a reasonable gamble when compared to the near certainty that it would go public if he demanded a hearing.

     (Might have been a lot brighter not to tell the cops he was a Senator as it is quite possible they'd have never made the connection because no background investgation is likely in such a minor case, but throwing weight around is second nature to most politicians).


    Others have noted that (none / 0) (#7)
    by LimaBN on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 01:48:21 PM EST
    Craig's calculation in pleading out, rather than vigorously defending, made sense.  A protracted court fight would be a greater drag on his coming re-election campaign than getting it over with or just possibly sneaking it through.

    A straight plea to disorderly, hoping that no one would notice the underlying allegations, probably looked like the better choice.  And, for three weeks, it seemed to work.  The plea was entered August 8, and did not come to public attention for three full weeks.  

    He must have started breathing easier, figuring he'd made it under the radar.  Perhaps, that tinny whistle of fear had quieted down - until The Hill called, last Friday or so, asking for comment.

    Wonder who outed Craig's bust?  Maybe a gay staffer at the courthouse, someone tired of his hypocrisy and shameful record of using "family values" votes and speeches to cater to the fundies?

    Someone is going to have to write a history of closeted gays some day.  There's so much to work with - including all those people who fed information to J. Edgar Hoover and his partner, and to Sen. Joseph McCarthy for all those years.

    Whether out of fear of their own exposure or resentment of their own oppressors, I suspect closeted gays had a lot to do with those particular reigns of terror.

    We're seeing a lot of this (none / 0) (#8)
    by Deconstructionist on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 01:52:48 PM EST
      "I'll bet the pyschosexual problems of closeted gays caused ___ stuff."

      Does anyone else think that sounds more than a little  "homophobic."



    He was cruising (none / 0) (#9)
    by eric on Tue Aug 28, 2007 at 03:01:51 PM EST
    First, I am from MN and here, disorderly conduct is, as mentioned above, a sort of amorphous default that you get when you plead your case down.  If your client exposes himself or gets into a bar fight, they might be guilty of lots of things, but if you can plead them down to a disorderly, that generally means you got a good deal.

    Second, any contention that this wasn't exaclty what it looks like is silly.  Craig was clearly cruising.  The Minnesota Monitor has some good information about this restroom in particular.  It seems that it was

    "Very cruisy, no security cameras or guards. Most of the time, men will show themselves to you at the urinals and invite into stalls or nearby hotels. Plenty of dark stall action, too!


    It is silly to call what Craig did, a "subjective determination."  He was cruising.