Although citizens of the US are free to do as they please, there are still limits to what you can and cannot do. If a person’s actions result in the disturbance of others, to a point where their word or conduct interferes with another person’s right to peace and tranquility, they may be charged with disturbing the peace. Disturbing the peace, or breach of the peace, usually refers to some form of unruly public behavior, like fighting or being excessively loud in public.
What Constitutes as Disturbing the Peace?
Disturbing the peace laws exist to keep people from causing major disruptions or commotions, generally in a public setting. The law typically prohibits behavior like the following:
- Using offensive words likely to incite violence;
- Fighting or challenging someone to a fight in a public setting;
- Bullying a student;
- Holding an unlawful public assembly;
- Shouting profanities outside someone’s home for an extended period of time;
- Allowing excessive dog barking in a residential area; and
- Playing loud music through the night.
For a person to be guilty, the defendant’s conduct must have been on purpose (willful) or with bad intent (malicious). Some other factors that may be considered are the location, time, words and actions, and who was affected.
The penalties for disturbing the peace are not life changing, however can still be somewhat significant. Being charged is a misdemeanor criminal offense, meaning that in some jurisdictions, violators could face jail time. Other consequences include fines, or alternative sentences, like community service.
Disturbing the peace is a law with broad definitions, meaning courts use their better judgment when determining guilt. There are things that may look like disturbing the peace, but will not land you with a charge. Things like simple horseplay, embarrassing someone, simply annoying someone, bumping into someone, or gestures such as the middle finger are not enough to be charged with disturbing the peace. Although, any continued behavior that takes away a person’s right to peace can get you charged. There are a few defenses to disturbing the peace that can help prove innocence or lessen the sentence. These arguments include a simple “I didn’t do it,” “I did it, but I had to,” (self defense) or something along the lines of your conduct didn’t actually disturb anyone. Finally, your First Amendment right to free speech may also be a valid argument against disturbing the peace.
Have Proper Representation
Although disturbing the peace may seem like an insignificant charge, it is still important to have a trusted individual who can properly defend your rights. We at Catanzaro Law know the ins and outs of such cases, and can help you in getting the best results possible in the court of law. Contact us today for a free consultation, and trust our trained, experienced professionals in properly representing you!