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What is the Law on affray in Pennsylvania and what are the Punishments for it?

Affray is committed by fighting in a public place and can disrupt the peace at the location or cause distress. The violence is unlawful in nature and makes people present at the scene feel unsafe. Since the affray is a criminal offense, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor.

The affray is usually considered to be a criminal offense, the burden of proof is on the prosecutor. However, under the Pennsylvanian code (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. sections 5501 et. seq ) affrays are covered under Disorderly Conduct. These charges are not really considered as criminal in nature, but will still appear on the criminal records of any convicted person.

This makes sure that people will take the statue more seriously in spite of its less severe punishments discussed later on. Any action is, whether executed ‘’recklessly’ or ‘knowingly’ is labeled a crime under this statue when their action puts the public present at the risk of inconvenience. The statue covers scenarios where:

  • The alleged individuals engage in behaviors like threatening, fighting, and violent behaviors.
  • The alleged individuals make an unreasonable amount of noise.
  • The alleged individuals use indecent gestures or verbal abuse.
  • The alleged individuals create a physically dangerous environment for no real or legal purpose.
  • The alleged individuals engage in any type of action that can significantly disturb the state of rest or peace at a public place.
Pennsylvania Affray Law

The statue may be used under various situations like bar fights, neighborhood violence, at parties, and even at ‘peaceful’ protests.  These charges often come together with some kind of an assault charge as well, which can increase the consequence on the alleged person in terms of imprisonment period, fine or both.

Pennsylvania puts disorderly conduct or affrays under what is called a summary offense. These offenses are considered to be less serious than misdemeanors or felonies. Accordingly, their punishments are not as severe. The charge of a summary offense can lead to an order of imprisonment of up to 90 days or a fine amount between $25 - $1500 or both depending on the specific damage caused to people or property during the incident.

Any action charged against this statue may be considered to be a class three demeanor if

  • The alleged individual actively intended to cause significant harm or inconvenience
  • The alleged individual continues to engage in the disorderly conduct in spite of being asked and persisted to stop.
Affray Law Pennsylvania

If convicted of a class three demeanor, the punishment can be imprisonment up to one year or a fine of $2500 or both.

There are many possible defenses against a charge of disorderly conduct. A good defense may help the person to plead for innocence or reduce the punishment post-conviction.  

  • The alleged person can claim that they did not intend to cause any disturbance
  • The alleged person can claim that they were not aware that their behavior is causing inconvenience to the people present at the scene.
  • The alleged person can claim that they were under the effects of alcohol or similar substances which do not give them complete control of their behavior.
Affray Law
  • The alleged person may have engaged in threatening or fighting out of the need for self –defense, i.e. to protect them from harm being caused by another person.
  • The alleged individual may claim that they were provoked by another person (s) to engage in the disorderly conduct.
  • The age of the alleged individual can be a defense if they are minor.

  Affrays though less severe than most offenses are also a lot more common and a huge threat to the general peace of the public and hence should be handled with equal sensitivity and seriousness.


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