Common Offenses

Affray

The crime of affray is a holdover from the English common law system, (originally adopted in Maryland's early colonial days) which has never been revised, amended or repealed and is therefore still valid. The crime of affray is essentially the fighting of two or more persons in some public place to the disturbance of others (the public). Since affray is a common law crime without any statutory limitations, the maximum possible penalty for affray is any sentence that is neither cruel nor unusual.

First-Degree Assault

A first-degree assault is intentionally causing or attempting to cause serious physical injury to another, or use a firearm in an assault. "Serious physical injury" means injury that creates a substantial risk of death or causes permanent or protracted; serious disfigurement, loss of the function of any bodily member or organ, or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ.

A person who violates this section is guilty of the felony of assault in the first degree and upon conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 25 years.

Second-Degree Assault

Second-degree assault is not as serious as first-degree assault and is intentionally causing or attempting to cause (such as a swing and a miss) physical injury. "Physical injury" in this case means any impairment of physical condition, excluding minor injuries.

In Maryland, a person who commits second-degree assault is guilty of a misdemeanor and can be subject to imprisonment not to exceed 10 years, or a fine not to exceed $2,500 or both.

However — additionally a person convicted of second-degree assault on a police officer in the performance of his/her official duties is guilty of a felony and subject to imprisonment for up to 10 years, or a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

You should also know — in most jurisdictions the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the length of possible incarceration. Usually if you could receive a sentence of less than one year incarceration, then the crime is considered a misdemeanor; if you could receive a maximum sentence greater than one year, the crime is considered a felony. Not so in Maryland. In Maryland, you can receive up to 10 years for a second-degree assault conviction yet it is still considered a misdemeanor, unless the assault was committed upon a law enforcement officer, in which case it is automatically considered a felony.

Reckless Endangerment

Defined as engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another; or discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle in a manner that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another.

Penalty — A person who violates this section is guilty of the misdemeanor of reckless endangerment and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding five years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.

Disorderly Conduct

In Maryland, the crime of disorderly conduct is governed by section 10-201 of the Annotated Codes of Maryland. What you should be aware of is that in Maryland there are essentially six prongs by which you can be found guilty of the crime of disorderly conduct, which carries the possibility of up to a 60-day jail term and a fine of $500 or both.

First prong: A person may not willfully and without lawful purpose obstruct or hinder the free passage of another in a public place on a public conveyance.

Second prong: A person may not willfully act in a disorderly manner that disturbs the public peace.

Third prong: A person may not willfully fail to obey a reasonable and lawful order that a law enforcement officer makes to prevent a disturbance of the public peace.

Fourth prong: A person who enters the land or premises of another, whether an owner or lessee, on a beach adjacent to the residential riparian property may not willfully:

  1. Disturb the peace of persons on the land, premises or beach by making an unreasonable loud noise or

  2. Act in a disorderly manner.

Fifth prong: a person from any location may not, by making an unreasonably loud noise, willfully disturb the peace of another:

  1. On the other land or premises

  2. In a public place or

  3. On a public conveyance

Sixth prong: (local to Worcester County) A person may not build a bonfire or allow a bonfire to burn on a beach on others property between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.

The gist of the crime of disorderly conduct, as it was in the cases of common law predecessor crimes, is the doing or saying, or both of that which offends, disturbs, incites, or tends to incite, a number of people gathered in the same area. In other words, it is conduct of such a nature as to affect the peace and quiet of person actually present who may witness the conduct or hear the language, and who may be disturbed or provoked to resentment thereby. Nevertheless, the statute, in either its "doing" or "saying" prescriptions, may not punish acts or spoken words although vulgar and offensive, which are protected by the First and 14th Amendments of the United States Constitution. Implicit [from the words of the statue] is the prohibition against a person willfully acting in a disorderly manner by making loud and unseemly noises or by profanely cursing, swearing or using obscene language. (Citations omitted). Reese v. State, 17 Md App. 73, 80 (1973). Dziekonski v. State, 127 Md, App. 191, 200-201 (1999). Matter of Nawrocki, 15 Md App. 252,257-58 (1972).

Many young adults run afoul of the disorderly conduct statute because it encompasses many forms of behavior. This is a criminal charge and it should be taken seriously. No one wants a criminal record especially an employer.

I am a local Ocean City attorney with over 18 years of criminal trial experience. Let me help you so that you don't end up with a record for the crime of affray, assault, reckless endangerment or disorderly conduct.