Public Order Crime

Public order crimes include a wide range of offences that have been variously referred to as vice offences, consenting offences, victimless crimes, or nuisance offences. The selling of narcotics is one public order crime that is taken extremely severely, while other offences are discarded with a shrug or an expression of contempt. It is a "moving target" category where it is both lawful and illegal at different times and in different locations.

What is the meaning of Public Order Crime?

Public order crimes are activities that do not comply with society. The recognized moral principles that define what is good and wrong are known as moral standards. Most people believe that offences against public order are detrimental to the general welfare or disruptive to daily life in a community. Therefore, certain examples of Public Order Crime are: Prostitution, paraphilia, pornography, and intoxication-related charges are only a few of the public order offences.

Aim of Public Order Crime

There are two main objectives that public order crimes are utilized to achieve −

  • First and foremost, they usually aim to stop people from acting in a way that might endanger the neighbourhood. An anti-firework law might serve as an illustration of this.

  • A crime against public order may be utilized to safeguard certain segments of the population. This could cover regulations like minor time limit or teen curfews.

Legal Consequences of Public Order Crime

Depending on the charge, a public order crime may carry a variety of legal consequences. Crimes against the public order are often divided into two categories −

Minor Offences

A charge like disorderly conduct is an example of a minor public order crime. This kind of infraction will probably just be punished with a citation or minor charges. In certain situations, the offender might just need to shell out a minor fee or serve a brief jail sentence.

Serious Offences

On the other hand, serious offences like drug offences may result in felony charges. A defendant may be forced to pay a larger monetary fine or serve a lengthier jail term if they are found guilty of a severe offence.

A repeat offender can also be subject to severe punishment. Based on their past criminal history, a repeat offender's misdemeanour charge may be upgraded to a felony.

Defences Available Against Public Order Crime

Crimes against public order will generally be subject to common criminal defences. These defences might consist of −

  • Intoxication

  • Duress

  • Coercion

  • Self-defense

It is significant to emphasise that, a defendant will not be entirely exonerated from criminal responsibility by using these arguments. They will only be used to lessen the defendant's sentence or penalty.

Disorderly Conduct as Public Order Crime

A typical accusation against public order is disorderly conduct, which can include a range of defendant activities like urinating in public and peering into someone's window. Often, the charge of disorderly conduct is used to describe any actions that are irritating or bothersome. These actions usually result in some kind of public commotion.

Each state will have its own definition of what constitutes disorderly behaviour. For instance, some jurisdictions need evidence of purpose, whereas in others, carelessness might result in a conviction of disorderly conduct. Although many charges for disorderly conduct are related to actions a person takes while under the influence of alcohol, drunkenness is typically not a requirement for the accusation.

It's critical to understand what actions are considered disorderly conduct in a certain state and what penalties may apply if someone is charged with this particular felony. The penalties for disorderly conduct might vary, and the conviction may be able to be cleared from a person's record. A typical punishment for a case of disorderly behaviour is probation. A defendant who has been found guilty of disorderly conduct may get probation for a number of months or longer.

The majority of states define disorderly conduct as actions that might put other people at risk of −

  • Alarm

  • Rage

  • Irritation

  • A greater possibility that they'll commit a crime.

Frequently, behaviours that are accused of disorderly conduct would not be such if they took place in a different situation or at a different period.


Public order violations create some societal harm, but whether the harm is significant enough to justify diverting criminal justice resources is debatable. Criminologists today dispute the idea that crimes classified as public order offences are "victimless" because there are always secondary victims who may be severely injured by the offender's acts. Public order crimes are better understood as voluntary mala prohibita acts that always have the potential to hurt other people rather than as victimless crimes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is meant by public order?

Ans. The concept of "public order" is vague and does not describe what it means. It is generally accepted to comprise both formal and informal safeguards for people's freedom, safety, and tranquility—all requirements for people to coexist peacefully in society.

Q2. What is the difference between public order and law and order?

Ans. The Supreme Court has established a distinction between law and order, which pertains to individual criminal activity, and public order, which concerns a whole society. The two names cannot be used interchangeably.

Q3. What are the most common crimes against public order?

Ans. Crimes against public order frequently take the form of drug offences, prostitution, disorderly behaviour, and public intoxication other offences connected to drinking.

Updated on: 14-Apr-2023


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