In Montgomery, Alabama, a riot occurred at a dock over boat parking. The incident has taken social media by storm. At the dock, a bunch of drunken shirtless people decided to illegally park their boat at a slip reserved for a larger riverboat with many people on the boat. When the dockyard attendant nicely asked the drunken shirtless gentlemen to move their boat, the drunken shirtless men took exception to the instruction. One of the drunken shirtless men took a swing at the attendant, which caused a riot.

Unfortunately for the drunken shirtless men, the dockyard attendant was not alone at work, and many other upstanding community members decided to defend him from the assault. Unfortunately for the shirtless drunken men, the passengers on the riverboat who were waiting to park all had cell phones and decided to video the melee, so there is no dispute as to what transpired. Caps went flying, folding chairs were raised, and drunken shirtless men retreated by jumping into the water. Arrest warrants have been issued. The drunken shirtless men are in trouble.

What Would Happen Under Pennsylvania Law?

In Pennsylvania, four statutes would come into play if this incident happened here. First, Disorderly Conduct is defined as:

§ 5503. Disorderly conduct.

(a) Offense defined.–A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:
(1) engages in fighting or threatening, or in violent or tumultuous behavior;
(2) makes unreasonable noise;
(3) uses obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
(4) creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose of the actor.

Here, the men who are intentionally illegally parking their boat at the wrong slip at the dock, jump out of the boat, argue with the attendant, and take a gratuitous swing at him are obviously engaging in fighting or threatening, or in violent tumultuous behavior.

§ 2701. Simple assault.

(a) Offense defined.–Except as provided under section 2702 (relating to aggravated assault), a person is guilty of assault if he:
(1) attempts to cause or intentionally, knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another;
(2) negligently causes bodily injury to another with a deadly weapon;
(3) attempts by physical menace to put another in fear of imminent serious bodily injury; or
(4) conceals or attempts to conceal a hypodermic needle on his person and intentionally or knowingly penetrates a law enforcement officer or an officer or an employee of a correctional institution, county jail or prison, detention facility or mental hospital during the course of an arrest or any search of the person.

Obviously, swinging and making contact with your fist to another person’s face is an attempt to cause bodily injury to another person.

§ 2705. Recklessly endangering another person.

A person commits a misdemeanor of the second degree if he recklessly engages in conduct which places or may place another person in danger of death or serious bodily injury.
As a result of the swing, many other people came out of nowhere to protect the dockyard attendant, which then caused the other shirtless drunkards to exit the boat, which caused a melee.

§ 5501. Riot.

A person is guilty of riot, a felony of the third degree, if he participates with two or more others in a course of disorderly conduct:
(1) with intent to commit or facilitate the commission of a felony or misdemeanor;
(2) with intent to prevent or coerce official action; or
(3) when the actor or any other participant to the knowledge of the actor uses or plans to use a firearm or other deadly weapon.

This is the most serious charge because it’s a felony, and while difficult to prove generally, this case is on video, and you can see them park at the wrong spot on the dock. You see one of the men swing at the attendant. Obviously, the issue will be whether, at the time the man swings at the worker, while committing disorderly conduct, was his intent to commit or facilitate the misdemeanor of simple assault in concert with all the other shirtless drunkards on his boat. Again, it would be tough to prove, but I think they have it because it’s on video.

Further, in Pennsylvania, the issues involving riots have not been reviewed much by appellate courts. The main decision on this topic is Com. v. Johnson, 417 Pa. Super. 636 (Pa. Super. Ct. 1992), which holds nothing in the statutory language requires proof of a common intent. Meaning, the prosecutor does not need to prove the actors in the riot formed a conspiracy or a criminal intent before the riot starts to prove them guilty of riot.

Brian J. Zeiger, Esquire, is an experienced and successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney. He is a seasoned trial lawyer with significant experience before juries and judges. Brian understands civil rights cases, including Taser, Wrongful Death, Excessive Force, Police Brutality, Police Misconduct, Malicious Prosecution, Monell Claims, Sexual Assault, Prisoner’s Rights, Time Credit, Medical Malpractice, and Medical Indifference.