California Penal Code Section 372 PC and § 373a PC: Public Nuisance

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimepublic nuisance

While being a bad neighbor is not itself a crime, there may circumstances where a neighbor’s conduct is so egregious that is creates a public nuisance that affects the livability of the entire neighborhood. In these situations, criminal charges of maintaining or permitting a public nuisance under California Penal Code Section 372 PC and California Penal Code Section 373a PC may be brought against the homeowner or other person responsible for the nuisance.

In order to prove a charge of public nuisance under California Penal Code Section 372 PC, a prosecutor must prove that either:

  1. The defendant maintained or committed a public nuisance.
  2. OR the defendant willfully omitted to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance.

To prove a defendant is guilty of maintaining a public nuisance under California Penal Code Section 373a PC, the following elements must be present:

  1. The defendant
    1. maintained, permitted, or allowed a public nuisance to exist on his or her property or premises.
    2. OR the defendant occupied or leased the property or premises of another who maintained, permitted, or allowed a public nuisance to exist on his or her property or premises.
    3. OR the defendant willfully omitted to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance.
  2. AND the defendant was given written notice by the district attorney or health officer to remove or discontinue the public nuisance.

A public nuisance is defined by California Civil Code Section 3480 as one which affects an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number or persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.

Each day a nuisance is allowed to exist after written notice has been served is considered a separate and distinct criminal offense.

2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Disturbing the Peace - California Penal Code Section 415 PC
  2. Operating a Drug House - California Health & Safety Code Section 11366 HSC
3. Examples

A man owns a house in a quiet neighborhood and decides to lease the home to a group of college students. The students move in and throw raucous parties every night of the week that last all night. The other neighbors are kept up by the loud parties and the debauchery associated with them. Numerous complaints are filed with the local police department. Both the tenants and the homeowner could be charged with maintaining a public nuisance under California Penal Code Section 372 PC.

In another example, a man digs a large pit in the front yard of his home. The pit is not surrounded by a fence and his neighbors are afraid that their children may fall into the pit and harm themselves. The authorities are contacted and the local district attorney provides written notice to the man to fill in the pit. The man ignores the notice and several days pass. The man could be charged with public nuisance under California Penal Code Section 373a PC. He could be charged with a separate count for each day he allows the nuisance to continue.

4. Defenses to Public Nuisance

A public nuisance is something that must be maintained or allowed to continue over an extended period of time. Thus a one-time wild party at a house that must be broken up the police would probably not expose the homeowner or tenant to criminal liability under the public nuisance statutes.

5. Penalties

Public nuisance is a misdemeanor level offense that is punishable by up to six months in jail and extensive fines. Additionally, a defendant can be charged under California Penal Code Section 373a PC with a separate offense for each day that a nuisance is allowed to continue after written notice to remove that nuisance has been served.

6. Criminal Defense for Public Nuisance Cases

If you have been cited for or charged with public nuisance, it is very important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer right away. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut possesses a detailed knowledge of the criminal law and knows how to effectively defend those charged with offenses like this.

For more information about public nuisance, 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 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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