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Criminal Jury Instructions

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8.4-6  Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree -- § 53a-181 (a) (5)

Revised to December 1, 2007

The defendant is charged [in count __] with breach of the peace in the second degree.  The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent as follows: 

a person is guilty of breach of the peace when, with intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, such person  in a public place, uses abusive or obscene language or makes an obscene gesture.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

Element 1 - Intent
The first element is that the defendant

  • acted with the intent to cause inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.  The predominant intent must be to cause what a reasonable person operating under contemporary community standards would consider a disturbance to or impediment of a lawful activity, a deep feeling of vexation or provocation, or a feeling of anxiety prompted by threatened danger or harm.  <See Intent: Specific, Instruction 2.3-1.>

  • recklessly created a risk of causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm.  A person acts "recklessly" with respect to a result or circumstances when (he/she) is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstances exist.  <See Recklessness, Instruction 2.3-4.>

The words "inconvenience, annoyance or alarm" refer to what a reasonable person operating under contemporary community standards would consider a disturbance to or impediment of a lawful activity, a deep feeling of vexation or provocation, or a feeling of anxiety prompted by threatened danger or harm.1 

Element 2 - Abusive or obscene language or gesture
The second element is that the defendant used abusive or obscene language or made an obscene gesture.  The alleged language used or the obscene gesture made must be overheard or seen by others.

Language is "abusive" if it is so coarse and insulting as to create a substantial risk of provoking violence.  The state must prove that the defendant's language had a substantial tendency to provoke violent retaliation or other wrongful conduct.  The words used must be "fighting words," which is speech that has a direct tendency to cause imminent acts of violence or portends violence.  Such speech must be of such a nature that it is likely to provoke the average person to retaliation.2

To be obscene, language or gestures must, under contemporary community standards, be so grossly offensive to members of the public who actually overhear the language or who see the gesture, as to amount to a serious annoyance.  It must be in a significant way erotic and must appeal to prurient interest in sex or portray sex in a patently offensive way.3

Element 3 - Public Place
The third element is that the conduct took place in a public place.  "Public place" means any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests.4 

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant 1) (intended to cause / recklessly created a risk of causing) inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, 2) <describe conduct>, and 3) it was in a public place.

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of breach of peace in the second degree, then you shall find the defendant guilty.  On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.
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1 The Supreme Court applied this interpretive gloss to the mens rea language of the disorderly conduct statute in State v. Indrisano, 228 Conn. 795, 810-811 (1994).  In State v. Wolff, 237 Conn. 633, 670 (1996), the Court applied it to the breach of peace statute.  See the discussion of intent in the Introduction to this section.

2 See State v. Szymkiewicz, 237 Conn. 613, 620-24 (1996); State v. Gaymon, 96 Conn. App. 244, 248, cert. denied, 280 Conn. 906 (2006).

3 See State v. Anonymous, 34 Conn. Sup. 575, 577 (App. Sess. 1977).

4 Defined in § 53a-180aa (b).
 


 

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