Holidays, New Years, Superbowl Cheer – Disorderly Conduct and Public Intoxication

Winter brings with it some of the calendar’s most-anticipated holidays. In colder parts of the world—of which Massachusetts is certainly one, as anyone who has lived through a nor’easter will tell you—people draw together inside to escape the falling snow and the quickly-falling, long winter nights. The winter holidays have something for everyone: the religious and cultural observances of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa; the universal excitement of New Year’s Eve; the shared experience of Super Bowl Sunday.

For many people, with celebration there comes alcohol. And with alcohol there comes additional responsibility and potential criminal prosecution. Driving under the influence can have deadly consequences and as such has been targeted by numerous public awareness campaigns. However, even if you leave your keys at home, designate a driver, or plan to take a cab back at the end of the night—which you always should, for safety’s sake–you can still be held criminally liable for your conduct under the influence of alcohol.

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, “public intoxication” is not, in and of itself, a crime. It is treated as a nuisance offense. So long as an intoxicated person is not causing harm to others, and is not being disruptive, the likely response of a police officer would be to help this person to safety. This could be accomplished either by escorting the intoxicated person home or by taking them to a sobering center (colloquially known as a “drunk tank”).

However, alcohol disinhibits and lessens impulse control. In plain English: people do things while tipsy or drunk that they normally would not do.

The offense most commonly associated with alcohol consumption is disorderly conduct. In Massachusetts, disorderly conduct does not necessarily involve alcohol, and the statute makes no explicit mention of alcohol. In order to be convicted of disorderly conduct, the Commonwealth must prove the following:

  1. You involved yourself in a fight, threatened someone, or engaged in violent or tumultuous behavior, or created a hazardous or physically offensive condition with an act that served no legitimate purpose;
  2. Your actions were reasonably likely to affect the public; and
  3. You either intended to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly created a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.

A first disorderly conduct conviction carries the penalty of a $150 fine. For second and later offenses, the fine increases to $200 and there is a possible prison sentence of up to six months.

You are still considered legally responsible for your behavior after consuming alcohol; this applies to DUI and disorderly conduct offenses as well as to any other offense that might have “seemed like a good idea at the time.”

Mistakes happen. If you have been charged with any alcohol-related offense, call our office today to discuss your options. Our skilled criminal defense team will work to make things right so you can go on with your life as the peaceful, productive community member you are.

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