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Criminal Jury Instructions

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8.4-2  Breach of the Peace in the Second Degree -- § 53a-181 (a) (1)

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 part 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 engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior in a public place.

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 - Conduct
The second element is that the defendant engaged in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior that actually involved physical violence or portended imminent physical violence.2  The defendant's conduct must be more than a display of mere bad manners.  It must cause or create a risk of causing inconvenience, annoyance or alarm among members of the public.

[<If appropriate:>  The defendant's speech, absent actual physical conduct, may constitute the prohibited behavior when it can be identified as "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.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 State v. Indrisano, supra, 228 Conn. 812, interpreted the phrase "violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior" to require physical conduct.  See also State v. LoSacco, 12 Conn. App. 481, 491, cert. denied, 205 Conn. 814 (1983) (statute limited to conduct that actually involves physical violence or portends imminent physical violence).  "Indrisano avoided first amendment difficulties that would criminalize mere verbal speech by clarifying that a conviction under § 53a-182 must be based on a defendant's conduct rather than on a defendant's statements."  State v. McKiernan, 78 Conn. App. 182, 188, cert. denied, 266 Conn. 902 (2003). 

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

4 Defined in § 53a-180aa (b).
 


 

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