California Penal Code Section 302 PC: Disturbing A Religious Meeting

disturbing religious meeting1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Freedom of speech is a widely respected right that is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, there are situations in which limits on a person’s First Amendment rights are appropriate, especially where the speech in question unlawfully disturbs another’s right to free exercise of religion. Under California Penal Code Section 302 PC, disturbing a religious meeting is a criminal offense that can result in serious penalties.

The crime of disturbing a religious meeting requires a prosecutor to prove the following elements:

  • 1. The defendant disturbed or disquieted an assemblage of people for religious worship at a tax-exempt place of worship
  • 2. The defendant accomplished this with profane discourse, rude or indecent behavior, or by unnecessary noise
  • 3. AND the defendant acted intentionally to disrupt or disturb the religious meeting.

The disturbance can occur either within the actual location of the religious meeting or so near that it disturbs the religious group.

2. Examples

A social activist group on a college campus decides to mount a protest during another group’s religious ceremony to protest the other group’s poor human rights record in other countries. The protest group enters the chapel where the religious services are being held with bullhorns and launches into a series of loud protest chants. The members of the protest group could be prosecuted for disturbing a religious ceremony under California Penal Code Section 302 PC even though they were staging a political protest that would be considered protected speech in other circumstances.

In another example, a storefront church opens up in a rough neighborhood next door to a bar. On some nights, the music and loud voices from the bar disrupts the church’s evening services. The pastor has spoken to bar’s owner, however the owner has refused to do anything to prevent further disruptions. The bar owner could not be prosecuted for disturbing a religious meeting, as neither he nor his patrons intentionally tried to disturb the church services.

3. Related Offenses Other similar or related offenses include:
  1. 1. Disturbing a Public Meeting or Assembly - California Penal Code Section 403 PC
  2. 2. Disturbing the Peace – California Penal Code Section 415 PC
4. Defenses to Disturbing a Religious Meeting

As described above, it is only a crime to intentionally disrupt a religious meeting. Thus, if the disruption occurred unintentionally, the defendant would have a valid accident defense that can be asserted if he or she is charged with this offense.

5. Penalties

Disturbing a religious meeting is a misdemeanor offense that can be punishable by extensive fines and up to a year in county jail. The legislature has encouraged courts to require those convicted of this offense to complete up to 80 hours of community service as an alternative to jail. For someone who has a prior conviction under California Penal Code Section 302 PC or for disturbing a public meeting or assembly under California Penal Code Section 403 PC, the defendant is required to perform between 120 and 180 hours of community service. Although it is not required, the statute indicates that, where appropriate, the community service should be served at the place where the disturbance occurred.

6. Criminal Defense for Disturbing a Religious Meeting Cases

If you or someone who know have been charged with disturbing a religious meeting, it is very important that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is highly respected throughout the criminal justice system. Mr. Kraut has established key relationships within law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies and can often work with professionals in these various organizations pre-filing to help reduce criminal charges or even avoid them altogether. Mr. Kraut works tirelessly to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about disturbing a religious meeting, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

Share |
Featured on CNN
ABC News
NBC News
Los Angeles Times
CBS News
The New York Times
Us Weekly
Entertainment Tonight
Good Morning America
Legal Broadcast Network
Avvo Rating 10.0
Client Reviews
Michael Kraut is outstanding! He genuinely cared about my case and instructed my mom and I throughout the entire process. He was very clear on what he needed in order to receive the best results. He kept us updated until the end. I thank him so much for getting my charges rejected. I highly recommend him to anyone with legal needs! Shaquan
I contacted Michael with concern for my personal and business reputation. He was very reassuring and confident the entire time. After about 3 weeks it was determined that no charges were being filed by any agency and I was in the clear of any investigation. One thing that is amazing is just how FAST Michael is at replying to phone calls, texts, and even emails! We are talking under 30 minutes in most cases. That is unheard of for most attorneys! Michael is incredible and not your typical run of the mill attorney. For best results hire him if you feel like you might be under investigation or could face charges. Even if you know you are innocent it is best to take care of the smoke before it becomes a fire. Brad
Michael Kraut is-hands down-the best criminal defense attorney and I can't begin to thank him for all that he did for me and my family. I reached out to him in the middle of the night and less than a couple hours later, he had gotten back to me and scheduled a meeting. He's a no-nonsense attorney who knows how to get the job done! From the second we retained him, I had peace of mind in knowing that we were in the best hands possible. If Michael Kraut couldn't get it done, I knew that it couldn't be done at all. You can't put a price tag on your freedom. He was worth every single penny. Lida
Michael Kraut is an outstanding attorney. He was extremely professional, and straightforward, yet sensitive with my case. I am confident I made the right choice by hiring Michael. I highly recommend him to anyone seeking a truly experienced lawyer. Daniel
Michael Kraut - I cannot thank you enough for all that you did for ​my son. When I came to you I read that you used to be a district attorney but I never knew how much that meant until I watch you in court. I knew it took 3 months but the final day when I heard the judge say that all charges were dismissed it was all worth it! I will always be grateful for all that you did for us. A.N.