Disorderly Conduct in Massachusetts

The crime of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts is governed by G.L. c. 272 §53. Offensive acts are those that cause discontentment, umbrage or anger. There are three elements that the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to convict a defendant for this crime. The first element requires that the defendant engaged in fighting or threatening behavior OR engaged in violent or tumultuous behavior OR created a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that did not serve a legitimate person. Secondly, the District Attorney must prove that the defendant’s actions were reasonably likely to affect the public. Finally, the government must prove that the defendant intended to cause a public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm OR that the defendant recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience or alarm. Massachusetts appellate courts have held that acts or language that implicate fighting or threatening, or behavior that is riotous or violent, or behavior that creates a hazardous or offensive condition for no legitimate purpose can satisfy the elements of the disorderly person statute.

Can Someone Be Charged With Disorderly Conduct If The Incident Occurred Inside Of His Or Her Home?

Usually no. However, depending on the situation, it could be charged based on conduct that started in a house or apartment and spilled over to the outside and the public was affected. For example, in a situation in which a house party became out of control and loud guests spilled out into the street that disrupted neighbors and flow of foot traffic or automobile traffic the police may charge the unruly guests with disorderly conduct to diffuse the situation.

Can Offensive Language Be The Basis For Charging Someone For This Crime?

All citizens enjoy the protection of the United States First Amendment to the “freedom of speech.” However, in some circumstances, words themselves may fall outside of the scope of protection of the First Amendment. For example, Massachusetts Courts have held the use of “fighting words” alone in a situation that tend to incite a breach of the peace may support a charge for disorderly conduct. Using vulgar or profane words alone or offensive speech does not amount to disorderly conduct. Nor does the use of obscenities in public places suffice for a conviction under this statute.

What Are The Penalties for a Conviction of Disorderly Person In Massachusetts?

The crime of Disorderly Conduct is a misdemeanor. However, if you are convicted of being a disorderly person in Massachusetts in violation of G.L. ch. 272 §53 you can be sent to jail for up to six (6) months or by a fine of up to two hundred dollars ($200.00) or both.

Does Someone Need A Lawyer For This Crime?

Yes. It is always smart to go to court with an experienced lawyer if you or a family member is charged with a crime. Even though this crime is a misdemeanor, there is a potential for a jail sentence and there maybe collateral consequences. For example, depending on the situation, any type of finding or a guilty finding may affect a person’s employment or ability to secure a job.

Therefore, even though the charge of disorderly person might seem minor to you, it is important to retain a lawyer to protect your constitutional rights. Kathleen McCarthy has over 20 years of experience handling all types of criminal cases. No matter what the charges might be, Attorney McCarthy is ready to fight to protect your rights. Call her right now to discuss your case and to begin the criminal defense process. You may also contact her online.

Case Results » Disorderly Conduct In Massachusetts
  • Charges Of Disorderly Person, Resisting Arrest And Illegal Possession Of A Class A Substance, To Wit, Heroin Dismissed

    Police officers claimed to observe, what they believed to be, a drug transaction. They followed the defendant and he ran away-allegedly into traffic. When they caught up to him he was questioned about his activities. Ultimately, illegal product was found on his person and he was arrested. He faced charges of being a disorderly person [M.G.L. chapter 272 Section 53], resisting arrest [M.G.L. chapter 268 Section 32B] and illegal possession of a class "A" substance to wit heroin.

    Attorney McCarthy appropriately argued that running from the police does NOT satisfy the elements of the crime of resisting arrest. Additionally, the Commonwealth could not prove the offense of "disorderly person" because the public was NOT inconvenienced by the defendant's actions. These two charges were dismissed and the possession case will be dismissed in a short period of time provided the defendant satisfies certain conditions.

    Read More in Resisting Arrest

  • Clerk Fails To Issue A Complaint For Keeping A Disorderly House

    Due to noise complaints by neighbors, the police arrived at the defendant's house. During the course of investigating the source of the complaints the police entered the defendant's house and observed open beer cans and the house in disarray. The occupants of the home were not present when the police entered. Based on information gathered from individuals present the defendant was summonses to court to fact one count of keeping a disorderly house.

    Historically, this charge was lodged against individuals that were using a home or establishment to conduct "immoral" businesses. Recently, the police have charged defendant's [home owners] with this crime when it appears that a party has become out of control. Although the term "keeping" suggests that there must be more than one incident of the complaining behaviour—local courthouses routinely issue complaints based on one gathering that apparently got out of hand.

    In this case, following the clerk's hearing, the clerk agreed not to issue the complaint against the client provided certain conditions are satisfied. The client will avoid arraignment and therefore any record of this charge once the conditions are satisfied.

    April 2014

  • Disturbing The Peace And Disorderly Conduct Charges To Be Dismissed Against A Local College Student

    The police report alleged that they saw several vehicles slowing down in front of him due to an individual that was "stumbling in the middle of the roadway." The officers believed that the individual was under the influence as she would not leave the area. The defendant was ultimately arrested and charged with disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct. Over the Commonwealth's objection, Attorney McCarthy convinced the judge to order a period of pre-trial probation and if the defendant satisfies certain conditions the case will be dismissed without the defendant admitting to sufficient facts or admitting guilt.