Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Crimes and Punishments in the Massachusetts General Laws

There is a long history of laws dealing with drunk people, pilferers (or people that steal) and brawlers going back to colonial times.

Chapter 272 section 53 of the Massachusetts General Laws once read: "Rogues and vagabonds, persons who use any juggling or unlawful games or plays, common pipers and fiddlers stubborn children, runaways, common drunkards, common nightwalkers, both male and female, persons who with offensive or disorderly act or language accost or annoy in public places persona of the opposite sex, pilferers, lewd, wanton and lascivious persons in speech or behavior, common railers and brawlers, persons who neglect their calling or employment or who misspend what they earn and do not provide for themselves..." The penalty for these crimes was "imprisonment in the Massachusetts reformatory or at the state farm..."

According to Massachusetts General Laws Annotated this chapter was rescinded by c. 377 of the Acts of 1943. Part of this law originated from Colonial times in Colonial Law chapter 153, section 1.

Image: first seal of the MA Bay Colony used from 1629-1686, 1689-1692.

Naomi Allen
Reference Librarian