California Penal Code Section 415 PC: Disturbing The Peace

disturbing the peace1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

A person can be charged with disturbing the peace under California Penal Code Section 415 PC for a number of disruptive activities, including fighting, loud or unreasonable noise violations and using offensive words. Each variation of disturbing the peace requires a prosecutor to prove a unique set of factors.

To prove that a defendant disturbed the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight, a prosecutor must establish the following elements:

  1. The defendant willfully and unlawfully fought or challenged someone to fight.
  2. The defendant and the other person were in a public place when the fight occurred or the challenge was made
  3. AND the defendant did not act in self defense or in the defense of others.

To prove that a defendant disturbed the peace by causing loud and unreasonable noise, the following elements must be present:

  1. The defendant maliciously and willfully disturbed another person by causing loud and unreasonable noise
  2. AND there was a clear and present danger of immediate violence
  3. OR The noise was used for the purpose of disrupting lawful activities, rather than as a means to communicate.

For someone to be guilty of disturbing the peace by using offensive words, a prosecutor must be able to show the following elements:

  1. The defendant used offense words that were inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent response
  2. The defendant said something that is reasonably likely to provoke someone else to react violently
  3. When the defendant spoke, there was a clear and present danger that the other person would immediately erupt into violence.
2. Examples

A man at a bar continues to receive dirty looks from another man throughout the course of a night. After a few hours, the man walks up to this other person and challenges him to a fight outside. This man could be prosecuted for disturbing the peace by challenging another to fight in a public place (the bar).

In another example, a political group reserves a section of a public park for a rally. The group obtains all necessary permits for this engagement. Because it is a large group, speeches are made on a stage over a loudspeaker. During the rally, other people at the park complain about the noise. The group could not be charged with disturbing the peace, as the noise was not malicious and the loud volume was required to communicate with the group at large.

In another example, a man approaches another man and calls him a racial slur. This other man becomes enraged and attacks the first man. This first man could be charged with disturbing the peace because he used words that were likely to provoke a violent outburst, whatever his intentions may have been.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Disturbing a Public Meeting - California Penal Code Section 403 PC
  2. Disturbing a Religious Meeting - California Penal Code Section 302 PC
4. Defenses to Disturbing the Peace

For those who engaged in fighting or similar activity in response to a viable threat of immediate harm to themselves or to someone else, they could legitimately claim self defense if they are ever charged with disturbing the peace.

In addition, this offense requires a willful violation. If someone disturbs the peace because they have a voice that carries or they did not realize another person was present, he or she would not be criminally liable for this offense.

5. Penalties

Disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor-level offense that can be punished by up to 90 days in jail, expensive court fines and any conditions of probation that a judge may find to be appropriate. Disturbing the peace may be charged as an infraction, in which the defendant would have a non-criminal offense that would only result in a fine.

6. Criminal Defense for Disturbing the Peace Cases

If you or someone who know have been charged with disturbing the peace, it is crucial that you speak with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. The early involvement of an experienced and effective attorney may make the difference between criminal charges being filed altogether. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is highly regarded as an attorney who fights hard to ensure his clients get the best defense possible.

For more information about disturbing the peace, 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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