Massachusetts Disorderly Conduct, Indecent Exposure, and Prostitution Laws

Massachusetts is a very unusual state when it comes to handling the crimes of disorderly conduct (disturbing the peace), indecent exposure, and prostitution. Most states separate these crimes into their own individual laws. Not the Commonwealth. All crimes are penalized under one specific statute. Let's explore each one in a little more depth.

What is a Disorderly Person in Massachusetts?

Under Massachusetts state law, disorderly conduct is considered a "disturbance of the peace" offense and can arise out of several different situations and circumstances. Specifically, the law prohibits being a disorderly person.

You are considered a disorderly person if you:

  • Engage in fighting,
  • Threaten, or create violent or excessively noisy behavior,
  • Create dangerous or offensive conditions without good reason in order to inconvenience, annoy, or alarm others,
  • Accost or annoy another with offensive and disorderly acts or language, or
  • Engage in lewd speech or behavior in public.

What is Indecent Exposure in Massachusetts?

Although the law itself does not define “indecent exposure,” the Massachusetts courts describe it as “an intentional act of lewd exposure, offensive to one or more persons.” Examples of indecent exposure might include public urination, various types of nudity, and more minor public sexual acts. The acts can occur in public or private -- the location doesn't matter, merely the conduct.

Remember, an individual’s genitals must be intentionally exposed in order to be charged with this crime. Additionally, if your conduct is considered aggravated, you may be charged with a more serious crime of "Open and Gross Lewdness."

What is Prostitution in Massachusetts?

Essentially, Massachusetts law defines prostitution as engaging in sexual conduct for a fee. This includes actually engaging, agreeing to engage, or simply offering to engage in sexual activity with another person for a fee. An offer of sex for sale must occur for anyone to be prosecuted, although sexual conduct doesn't need to actually happen. It is also a crime under this law to keep a house of prostitution. There are additionally crimes related to soliciting a prostitute under a separate law.

The following table highlights the main provisions of Massachusetts disorderly conduct laws. See Disturbing the Peace, Public Intoxication, Public Safety Violations, and Sex Crimes for more information.

Code Sections

MGL Chapter 272, Section 53

What is Prohibited

Disorderly Persons: (See Above)

Indecent Exposure :

Any person who:

(1) Exposes his or her genitals to one or more persons
(2) Doing so intentionally
(3) Offended one or more persons.

Prostitution

Any person who:

1) engages, agrees to engage, or offers to engage
2) in sexual conduct with another person in return for a fee may be prosecuted for the misdemeanor of prostitution, whether sexual conduct occurs or not.

Penalty

Misdemeanor, maximum penalty of up to 6 months in jail and $200 in fines. Sentence can be elevated for repeat offenders or elevated sex crimes.

Because Massachusetts criminal laws can sometimes get complicated, particularly surrounding the right to free speech under the First Amendment, it may also be a good idea to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

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