The crime of disorderly conduct in Massachusetts is a misdemeanor that also serves as something of a catch-all charge. A variety of criminal acts fall under it.
For example, disorderly conduct can be charged if a person is noisy and rowdy in a public place; it is occasionally used for relatively minor scuffles or assault and batteries; or it can be charged if one creates any kind of public inconvenience or annoyance. For example, when a police officer tells someone to move their double-parked car and the person repeatedly argues with the officer and refuses to cooperate. In fact, any lack of cooperation, disrespect or rudeness toward a police officer often results in the charge of disorderly conduct. Disorderly conduct encompasses all kinds of behavior ranging from public urination to public drunkenness to resisting arrest to lewd acts out in public
There are numerous incidents that fall under the charge of disorderly conduct including most any offensive behavior that interferes with the peaceful and orderly functioning of a neighborhood. It is an unusual charge in that it often encompasses activity that might not always be illegal, but is illegal under particular situations. For example, if one is singing while walking down the street, it is generally not considered a crime. But if one is singing outside late at night until the neighbors complain and then the person refuses to stop even after the police arrive and ask him or her to, that behavior, while permissible under other circumstances, suddenly becomes illegal.
Many disorderly conduct charges occur when people are intoxicated and acting boisterous and unruly often at concerts, sporting events or other public gatherings.
In order to convict a person accused of disorderly conduct, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt three things. (1) That the person is engaged in violent or offensive or boisterous behavior or behavior that creates a threat to public safety or the public sense of well-being that serves no legitimate purpose. (2) That the behavior takes places somewhere that the public can see it. (3) That the accused person either committed this behavior intentionally or recklessly resulting in the distress, aggravation, offense to or disruption of the public.
The charge of disorderly conduct is, in fact, a misdemeanor and is, comparatively speaking, a minor crime. A first offense conviction for disorderly conduct carries with it a maximum fine of $150, but there is no chance of jail time. However, if one is arrested a second time, they could face a potential jail sentence of up to 6 months or a $200 fine or both.
While it may not be considered the most serious of crimes and it does not carry the possibility of incarceration for a first offense, it is nevertheless a criminal offense that can result in a conviction and criminal record.
But that may not be the worst of it. It shouldn’t be taken too lightly because any criminal record may have serious consequences. It could hamper someone when they apply for college as the college may become aware of it and question the applicant about it. Then, even though it is a relatively low level of crime, it might be the thing that causes the school to reject the applicant with a criminal record in favor of someone without any criminal record. Or causes a school to deny the granting of college scholarship money. It could also hurt someone when they apply for a job or a professional license or even to do volunteer work.
The police do have an option on how to go about charging you. They could arrest you on the spot. Or you can be summoned into court by way of a letter.
Once charged, if handled correctly, there is plenty of hope here in resolving this matter so that it does not affect the future of the offender. The goal of the attorney would be to try to get you out of this without a criminal record. There are a variety of ways this can be done.
You could enter a diversion program where, instead of being prosecuted to the full extent, you can do community service or take a course. Upon the successful completion, the charge can be dropped.
Or your attorney can just negotiate an agreement where the case can be immediately dismissed.
Or through either pretrial probation or a continuance without a finding, the case can be dismissed after a period of time goes by as long as there are no new criminal charges that come up during that period.
Another effective method may be to request what is known as a clerk’s hearing. One way to request a clerk’s hearing, also known as a show cause hearing, is if you are handed or mailed a citation. Consult an attorney right away. The citation might notify you in very fine print that you have just four days to file a request for a clerk’s hearing at the local courthouse. At that relatively informal hearing a decision can be made whether to charge you at all. If you can nip it in the bud at the clerk’s hearing by getting a ruling that a complaint will not issue, then there will be no record in existence that you were ever even charged.
Getting out of this without a criminal record is not at all unrealistic if the accused has no prior criminal record and is leading an otherwise good life. They may be given the benefit of the doubt and given a break on this – their very first encounter with the criminal justice system.
Have you been charged with the crime of disorderly conduct? Contact our Boston criminal law firm today for a free legal consult at (617) 742-9462.