CBS Boston

Keeping a Disorderly House

Keeping a Disorderly House- Boston Lawyer

In Massachusetts, under M.G.L. c. 272 s. 53(a), "keepers of noisy and disorderly houses... shall be punished by imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more than six months, or by a fine of not more than $200, or by both such fine and imprisonment."

This is a common-law offense that was originally intended to prosecute those who maintained houses that perpetuated "crimes against common decency" such as prostitution and illegal gambling. Today, the charge is often brought against a homeowner or tenant as the result of a loud or disruptive party.

We often see an application for a criminal complaint brought against college students as the result of a loud off-campus party, especially in the areas surrounding Boston College, Boston University, and Northeastern University. We know the ins and outs of handling these cases in the Boston courts with care, and have helped many college students keep their records clean by avoiding the issuance of a formal criminal complaint.

There are quite often very legitimate defenses to the charge of keeping a disorderly house. While the prosecution is not required to show that you were even home at the time of the disorderly conduct or disturbance, they must prove that you knew or had reason to know that such unruly or disturbing activity was taking place at the residence, and that you did not take any action to prevent or break up such activity. Thus, it could be a complete defense that you were away for the weekend and had no knowledge that your your roommate was about to have a one-time house party that resulted in the charge against you as a co-tenant.

Most often, a police officer will file an application for a criminal complaint for "keeping a disorderly house" rather than making a formal arrest. This provides you with an opportunity to be heard at a clerk-magistrate's hearing before any criminal complaint, or formal criminal charges, are actually filed. At such a hearing, it is extremely important to be represented by a skilled criminal defense attorney. Once a complaint issues, regardless of whether you are eventually found "Not Guilty" or the case is eventually dismissed in court, you will have a criminal contact record that will show up on your Criminal Offender Record Inquiry (CORI), forever. This means that if you are in a situation with the police even 30 years down the road, they will see that you were at one time charged with this misdemeanor offense. There are also several areas of employment, and even volunteer positions, that have unlimited access to CORI information, even of cases that have been dismissed or sealed. I have been very successful at having minor criminal charges permanently swept away before a complaint even issues. The practical effect of this result is tremendous- it's as though the incident never even happened.

If you were charged with keeping a disorderly house or any other criminal offense in Massachusetts, contact my office for your free initial phone consultation:

(617) 830-2188


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