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What are the Penalties for Disturbing the Peace in Massachusetts?

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A “disturber of the peace” or “disorderly person” is punishable with a fine on the first offense, but you can be sent to jail up to six months for the second offense.

To prove an offense of disorderly conduct, the Commonwealth must prove that you either:

  • Engaged in fighting or threatening
  • Engaged in violent or tumultuous behavior
  • Created a hazardous or physically offensive condition by an act that served no legitimate purpose of the defendant’s

This conduct must also be “reasonably likely to affect the general public.” The Commonwealth must also prove that you intended to cause “public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm,” or that you recklessly did so.

The conduct must affect the public, meaning people in a place where the public (or a substantial group) has access to.

Disorderly conduct is difficult to prove when it is only words because words are protected by the First Amendment. Basically, if you are charged with disorderly conduct based only on what you said, what you said must be really bad, or “fighting words,” (more than just impolite or curse words) for you to be guilty of disorderly conduct.

If you’ve been charged with disorderly conduct or a similar offense, it’s critical to contact a Massachusetts criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to get started on your defense. Contact me today so we can get started.

My office is located in Boston, Massachusetts, but I handle criminal cases, including disturbing the peace, in all Massachusetts courts. Contact me at 617-356-8217.

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