Boston is a college city and you can find more colleges and universities per square foot than really anywhere in the world. There has always been a strain between the residents that want peace and quiet and the students who want to live their college life. As part of this dynamic nothing annoys the neighbors more than a bunch of college students throwing a party at night.
It is very common for students at Northeastern, Boston University, Boston College, Wentworth, Berklee and many more to be charged with keeper of disorderly house. Instead of charging all the people who go to the party, the police generally charge the tenants who live at the place. This is extremely unfair when the tenant being charged wasn’t even at the party of in town that day. We have seen students that were taking a semester to study abroad of left to go home get charged with keeper of a disorderly house just because their name is on the lease. The students being charged where hundreds and thousands miles away from the party.
Keeper of a disorderly comes with the potential penalties of not more than a $200 fine or not more than 6 months in jail. When the statute was written it was never intended to deal with underage drinking or house parties. The statute was intended to battle the crimes against common decency mostly illegal gambling and prostitution, but now it is being used against landlords and tenants.
If the police do come to break up a party, the worst thing the students can do is to lock out the police, run or try to hide. Legally the students are not required to let the police in, but it will be held against them in court. Even if the police aren’t let in they investigate to find out who the tenants are and send them a criminal summons. It is very important for the students to be polite, cooperative and never combative. If the students are combative they could be facing other charges such as resisting arrest or assault and battery on a police officer which will make the case a lot more complicated.
Usually the students will receive a summons in the mail requesting for them to come to court to attend a clerk’s magistrate hearing. At this hearing, a clerk will assess the case to see if there is enough probable cause to issue a complaint. A clerk’s hearing is extremely important. If the clerk doesn’t find probable cause and the students aren’t arraigned their records remains clear. It is never a good idea to go to any clerk’s hearing without the help of an attorney. If the clerk finds probable cause and the students are arraigned, the students will have a mark on their CORI that shows they were charges. Once arraigned regardless of the result, even if the charges are ultimately dismissed, the charge will show up on their record.
It is important to be smart and not to throw a party because the police are looking to crackdown on these all over Boston. However, if you do find yourself being summoned to court with the charge of keeper of a disorderly house, call a lawyer right away.