Most people are familiar with the term “disturbing the peace,” but not all understand its meaning and legal ramifications. You can face the charges for different reasons, ranging from a physical fight, verbal argument, or using offensive words.
Often, these charges lead to a simple violation punishable by a fine. However, you can also face misdemeanor charges that can land you a jail sentence. Furthermore, it’s common to find these charges accompanying more severe crimes.
So if you, a close family member, or acquaintance has been charged with this infraction, it’s in your best interest to seek a reliable attorney from our firm.
A Look Into Penal Code 415 PC
Those unfamiliar with the state’s legal environment may think of a homeless person yelling obscene words at passing motorists on a busy street. It may also conjure up thoughts that the charge is for the noisy neighbor playing their stereo too loud, disrupting their neighbors’ sleep.
But those who understand the state’s criminal justice system consider Penal Code 415 “catch basin for minor transgressions.” It’s the use of various low-level charges to negotiate plea bargains to help defendants avoid immigration or employment consequences or have criminal records for judgment lapse.
California Penal Code 415 makes it illegal to do any of the following:
- Participate in an unlawful fight in a public space
- Challenge another person to fight unlawfully in a public place
- Willfully or maliciously disturb another individual through unreasonably loud noise; or
- Use offensive words that’ll likely cause an immediate violent reaction
Penalties for Disturbing the Peace Charges
Disturbing the peace is considered a “wobbler crime, “which means the prosecutor can file it as a misdemeanor or infraction crime. This decision is generally based on filing the case according to the incident’s circumstances and your criminal record.
If you’re charged for disturbing the peace as an infraction, you’ll pay a maximum fine of $250. But if you’re convicted of the crime as a misdemeanor infraction, you may spend up to three months in county jail and pay up to $400 in fines.
Suppose you committed the crime on school grounds and aren’t an employee or student at the institution. In that case, you’ll face misdemeanor charges which attract a maximum jail sentence of 90 days accompanied by a $400 fine.
But if you were previously charged under Penal Code 415 for the same crime or it’s your second crime in a school environment, you face up to three months’ county jail sentence or a $1,000 fine.
What Must the Prosecution Prove for a Penal Code 415 Conviction?
Various disruptive activities can attract disturbing the peace charges under Penal Code 415 PC. Each of the crime’s variations requires the prosecution to prove several unique factors.
Depending on your lawsuit’s circumstances, the prosecution must prove that you committed the following elements of Penal Code 415.
If your charges involve unlawful fighting, the prosecution must prove that you unlawfully and deliberately fought someone else or challenged them to fight in a public space.
Unreasonable Loud Noise
Suppose you allegedly went against California Penal Code 415 by making an unreasonably loud noise. In that case, the court must prove that you intentionally and maliciously disturbed those around you with loud and unreasonable noise.
For the noise to disturb another person, it must have presented an immediate risk of violence or must have been used to disrupt lawful activities. Loud cheers, playing games, or music may not lead to these charges because the activities aren’t intended to disturb others and pose an immediate violence risk.
But if the police or a neighbor request you to cease the unreasonably loud noise, but you decline, you’ll likely face disturbing the peace charges, and the court would then determine whether you acted willfully and maliciously.
Using Offensive Words
If you’re facing this charge, the prosecution must prove that you publicly made offensive utterances likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction. The judge and jury determine “offensive words” on a case-by-case basis.
If you provoked an immediate violent response, you must have made a statement that prompted the other individual to respond violently.
Possible Defenses to Disturbing the Peace Charges
Your attorney can leverage several possible defenses to fight your disturbing the peace charges. The most common and effective defenses include:
Your Situation Lacks the Required Intent
The court shouldn’t declare you guilty of disturbing the peace if you’re sure that your words weren’t likely to provoke an instant violent reaction.
It Was an Act of Self-Defense
When you participated in unlawful fighting to defend yourself, the court can’t find you guilty under Penal Code 415. You must have been defending yourself or someone else when:
- You’re confident that someone will likely suffer bodily harm
- You reasonably believe that only force can protect you or someone else from harm
- You used reasonably necessary energy to defend yourself or someone else against danger.
The First Amendment Protects Your Words
The court won’t find you guilty of disturbing the peace if you practice your right to free speech as defined in the US constitution’s First Amendment.
You Were Wrongly Arrested Due to a False Accusation
You can face a false disturbing the peace accusation if you:
- Fell out with a vengeful neighbor who made false accusations against you
- Embarrassed someone else who sought revenge by accusing you of challenging them to fight
- You argued with a law enforcement officer simply because they didn’t like your attitude or behavior and detained you out of spite.
All these defenses can redeem you from the possible penalties of violating the CA Penal Code 415, an experienced disturbing the peace attorney can significantly influence your case outcome. They’ll protect your rights all through the process and create a solid defense to exempt you from the charges or reduce the possible sentence.
Let an Experienced Attorney Work on Your Defense
Your choice of legal counsel will determine how the lawsuit you’re facing will end. Cut the uncertainties and worries by reaching out to our experienced Penal Code 415 attorneys for apt guidance and professional legal representation. Contact us today to schedule your free disturbing the peace case evaluation.