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A riot is a public disturbance where three or more people behave in a violent and uncontrolled manner. A riot usually has the following characteristics: 

  • made in furtherance of an express common purpose; 
  • through the use or threat of violence, disorder, or terror to the public; and 
  • resulting in a disturbance of the peace.

Under criminal law, inciting a riot and rioting are crimes. The concerted acts may be unlawful in themselves, or they may be lawful acts that are done in a violent or turbulent manner. Among the different forms that riots may take include escalated labor disputes or political demonstrations. While most riots occur in public places, they may also take place within prisons and other institutional facilities. 

See: 18 U.S. Code § 2101

[Last updated in April of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]