IT DEPENDS ON THE CHARACTER OF THE PRIVATE PLACE...
DISORDERLY CONDUCT - PUBLIC PLACE - COMM v. MULVEY - 3/14/03
The public element of the offense is readily met in cases where the proscribed conduct takes place on public streets or by the side of a highway. It also may be satisfied where the disturbance takes place in a more secluded environment, but only if members of the public are likely to be affected. (disruption occurred in area of police station that was public place); (voyeur's conduct, even though unseen by victim, occurred in public alley).
Not Public: (defendant's sexual solicitation and conduct should not have been prosecuted as disorderly conduct; regardless, public element was not met where acts took place in car parked fifty feet from street, up driveway and on lawn area of house).
Whether the disturbance itself occurs on publicly owned property is not dispositive. The public element may be satisfied where the actor's conduct takes place on private property that is frequented by the public, such as stores, apartment houses, or theaters. It also is possible that behavior occurring on purely private property may be shown to affect or be likely to affect persons in an adjacent or nearby "place to which the public or a substantial group has access." Still, "[n]othing less than conscious disregard of a substantial and unjustifiable risk of public nuisance will suffice for liability."
Here, the defendant became disorderly when served with an RO at his mother's property, which was set back off the road and was surrounded by a variety of different types of fencing. There was a seventy-five to 100 foot long driveway between the road and the house. Entry to the driveway was through a large gate, composed of eight foot high chain link fencing. Green slats had been threaded through the chain link, making it difficult to see through.
The defendant's conduct took place on purely private property. Thus, in order to satisfy the public element of the crime, the Commonwealth was required to establish that the disturbance nevertheless had or was likely to have had an impact upon persons in an area accessible to the public. This it did not do.
As it stood at the end of the Commonwealth's case, the actions that precipitated the defendant's arrest took place thirty to fifty feet up the driveway, shielded from off-premises view by the partially opaque fence. There was no evidence that a crowd, inquisitive neighbors, or passersby actually saw or heard the disturbance. Nor was there any evidence to establish that people could have seen or heard the defendant from any place of public access, such as a nearby sidewalk, publicly used path or road, shopping area or other neighborhood facility.