College sports are an important part of American culture. Competition and inter-school rivalries stir the passions of students, alumni, and fans alike. Often fueled by excessive alcohol consumption, these passions sometimes cross the line and people get rowdy, offensive, and sometimes even destructive. When avid fandom devolves, a large crowd of unruly people can pose a significant threat to public safety, so the authorities will not hesitate to clamp down on such behavior.
When students get caught up in the moment, they may end up engaging in a riot without even knowing it. Their judgment clouded by emotion and alcohol, what might seem like innocent fun may look like disorderly conduct to the authorities. An arrest for disorderly conduct and a charge for rioting can turn your life upside down. Fortunately, a skilled and experienced Lansing criminal defense lawyer can intervene and help you obtain a positive resolution of your case.
What Can I Be Charged With for Being Too Rowdy After a Game?
The least serious charge you may face is disorderly conduct. According to Michigan Penal Code, a disorderly person is anyone who:
- Is intoxicated in public and is endangering people or property, or who is causing a public disturbance
- Is jostling or roughly crowding people unnecessarily in a public place
This statute accurately describes the conduct of the majority of people that one would encounter hanging out at a tailgate party or filling out of a football game. In these situations, the possibility of a criminal charge for disorderly conduct is a real possibility. If convicted of this offense, you may face up to 90 days in jail and/or $500 in fines.
Charges of disorderly conduct are leveled against people acting individually. But at football or basketball games, whole groups of people are usually engaging in rowdy behavior. For this reason, collegiate sports fans are at a significant risk of getting charged with rioting. The Michigan Penal Code contains several statutes that address rioting:
- Rioting (section 752.541)–It’s illegal for 5 or more people acting together to engage in violent conduct and to intentionally or recklessly cause a serious risk of causing public terror or alarm. Under section 750.523, you may also be considered a rioter if you fail to disperse or to assist the authorities when they order you to–even if you’re a bystander.
- Inciting to Riot (section 752.541)–This is behavior that displays the intent to cause or to assist in starting or maintaining a riot. Alternatively, the offense concerns people who encourage others to commit unlawful acts of violence, to destroy property, or to interfere with the activities of peace officers.
- Unlawful Assembly (section 752.523)–Essentially, this charge applies to groups of 4 or more people who are engaged in rioting or are assembling with the purpose to riot.
- Penalties (section 752.544)–Rioting and inciting to riot are felonies punishable by 10 years in prison, fines of up to $10,000, or both. Unlawful assembly is also a felony, but it carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
If you get convicted of rioting or unlawful assembly, your fines and prison sentence will only be part of the punishment. Under Michigan Penal Code section 750.528, anyone whose property you destroyed will be able to recover money by suing you in civil court. Under section 769.1g of the code of criminal procedure, a judge may order you to not enter any college campus for two years after your conviction.
Finally, the effects of your felony conviction on your future are significant. Your school’s disciplinary board may choose to suspend or dismiss you. You will be barred from owning firearms and face significant hurdles in obtaining employment or in qualifying for professional licenses.
Hire a Lansing Criminal Defense Lawyer to Help
You may be able to avoid the harsh consequences of a rioting conviction if you act fast and retain the services of a reputable legal professional. Depending on the circumstances, there may be several defense strategies available to you. In all of the charges discussed above, the prosecutor must prove your unlawful intent beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled lawyer may be able to show that the available evidence does not support such a conclusion.