Earlier today four Massachusetts teenagers were being arraigned in Quincy District Court. All four are being charged with murder after a twenty one year old Randolph man was killed over the weekend. After the arraignment someone in the audience yelled out words of support to the defendants. The victim’s family took exception to that. A fight broke out requiring the Quincy District Court court officers and the Quincy police to intervene. In all, five people were arrested and charged with Disorderly Conduct. None of the defendants were named in the report.
In order to prove someone guilty of Disorderly Conduct in Massachusetts the district attorney must prove three elements, each beyond a reasonable doubt. It first must that the accused either intended to cause alarm or that he acted recklessly thereby creating a risk of alarm. Second, the district attorney must prove that the defendant fought, threatened or engaged in tumultuous or violent conduct. Third, that the defendant’s actions created an offensive or hazardous condition which has no legitimate purpose to the defendant.
Not too long ago the Massachusetts Appeals Court reversed a disorderly person conviction. In that case, a Massachusetts state police officer drove up to a hotel parking lot and saw a man and a woman in a car. The was seemingly shaking his finger and yelling at the woman who was in the driver’s seat. The officer could hear the yelling but could not make out any words. Backup units arrived and the woman made clear that she did not want the man to be arrested. The officers told the man that he would be summonsed to court. He started flailing his arms telling the police that they were violating his civil rights. He was arrested and charged, among other things with disorderly person. In reversing the conviction the Appeals Court stated that the defendant’s conduct did not amount to “violent or tumultuous behavior”. Citing another Massachusetts case the Court held that “[t]o be disorderly, within the sense of the statute, the conduct must disturb through acts other than speech; neither a provocative nor a foul mouth transgresses the statute.”
As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I would be interested in reading the police reports in the Quincy cases. We have had countless disorderly conduct cases dismissed where the defendant was arrested for incidents involving his use of speech only. Many police officers do not realize this to be the law and they make arrests and file charges based on protected conduct. Also, this case took place in Quincy. If the alleged acts occurred in the first session courtroom they will be recorded. That court started a pilot program wherein the cases in that courtroom air live through a webcam. Some of these people’s defenses might be provable through the footage from that system. Here is one more thing to keep in mind. Many legal scholars believe that this statute is unconstitutional. While it has survived constitutional muster it has been suggested that a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer defending one of these cases should challenge the statute to preserve any potential future appellate issues.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman is committed to defending the accused. Call us now at 617-263-6800 or email our office to discuss your case. We want to start your Massachusetts Criminal Defense right now.