What is Disorderly Conduct? Is it a Serious Criminal Charge?

Keeping the peace requires significant “behind the scenes” work in the form of rules, laws, law enforcement, and punishment. Massachusetts Laws establish what we are allowed to do within our state, and any type of behavior that goes against these laws may be punishable. Most states define disorderly conduct as any behavior that is likely to cause alarm, annoyance, or anger to other people, such as fighting or brawling, and public urination.  If you engage in these types of activities, you may find yourself behind bars.  Every state has different disorderly conduct laws. In Massachusetts, disorderly conduct carries fines of up to $150. But second and subsequent convictions can mean time behind bars with up to six months of jail time and a fine of up to $200. Disorderly conduct is typically a misdemeanor offense, but it can be a felony if the circumstances are especially damaging. For example, calling a school to falsely report a bomb may be a felony offense. If you have been charged with disorderly conduct, contact a Boston defense lawyer today.

What is taken into consideration when determining if an individual has engaged in disorderly conduct? The circumstances of the situation are extremely important; a disorderly behavior may not be considered disorderly if it takes place at another time or in a different location. For instance, shouting in a residential area late at night can be disorderly conduct, but shouting in the same spot at noon the next day may not be. In addition, the prosecution does not need to show that someone was alarmed or angered by the defendant’s actions. They simply has to show that the action would have alarmed a reasonable person.

Location, Location, Location

Disorderly conduct is not something that you do in the privacy of your own home; it takes place in a public location. However, the term “public” doesn’t only refer to large public spaces with lots of people. A stall in a public bathroom and private buildings being used for public rental are both “public” spaces. Any conduct that disturbs even one other person in a public space may be classified as disorderly conduct.

Types of Disorderly Conduct

  • Fighting: Depending on the circumstances surrounding the encounter, fighting can be anything from disorderly conduct to assault and battery. A simple bar fight that breaks out during a drunken argument between two individuals is typically disorderly conduct. These types of encounters are generally not premeditated, are resolved with relative ease, and don’t result in life-threatening injuries.
  • Protests and Disturbing an Assembly: Peaceful protests are our right as Americans. However, disruptive or violent protests are not. And disruptive doesn’t have to involve fighting and starting fires; purposely blocking traffic is an example of a non-violent, disruptive protest that could result in a disorderly conduct charge. “Disturbing an Assembly” refers to engaging in disruptive behavior at religious ceremonies, public rallies or protests, or city council meetings.
  • Public Misconduct: What is acceptable at home isn’t always acceptable in public. Public intoxication, for example, isn’t illegal in the privacy of your home. However, if you leave home and urinate on a neighbor’s car, you may be charged with disorderly conduct.
  • Disorderly conduct and law enforcement: Police encounters can sometimes lead to disorderly conduct charges. If, for example, you begin verbally threatening a police officer, or you use any type of physical contact, a disorderly conduct charge may follow.

Altman & Altman, LLP – A Top Boston Criminal Defense Law Firm

If you have been charged with disorderly conduct or any other type of offense, the skilled legal team at Altman & Altman, LLP can help. From DUI to assault and battery, we have more than 50 years’ experience in all types of criminal cases. Our knowledgeable lawyers will fight tirelessly to protect your rights, reputation, and freedom. Contact Altman & Altman, LLP today for a free and confidential consultation about your case.




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