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Criminal Defense Information for Disturbing the Peace (Cal. Penal Code s. 415)

  1. What is Disturbing the Peace?
  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Disturbing the Peace?
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Disturbing the Peace?
  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Disturbing the Peace?
  1. What is Disturbing the Peace?

    Disturbing the Peace is a misdemeanor. If you:

    • Unlawfully engaged in fight in a public place or challenged someone in a public place to a fight;
    • Maliciously and willfully disturbed another person by loud and unreasonable noise (e.g., late night parties); or
    • Used offensive words that are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violet reaction in a public place;

    you may have been Disturbing the Peace. Cal. Pen. Code s. 415 Opens in New Window.

  2. What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Disturbing the Peace?

    To prove the defendant Disturbed the Peace, the state must show that the defendant:

    • Was in a public place; and
    • - Either -

    • Engaged in a fight or challenged another to a fight;
    • - OR -

    • Maliciously and willfully;
    • Disturbed another person; and
    • With loud and unreasonable noise;
    • - OR -

    • Used offensive words that were inherently likely to provoke and immediate violent reaction.
  3. What is the sentence / punishment for Disturbing the Peace?

    Disturbing the Peace is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum of 90 days in jail and/or a $400 fine. Cal. Pen. Code s. 415 Opens in New Window.

  4. What are possible defenses to charges of Disturbing the Peace?

    To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.

    If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Disturbing the Peace, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Disturbing the Peace, some of these justifications include:

    • Permission from the other person (e.g., the other person was OK with the noise);
    • Self-Defense;
    • Alibi;
    • Duress / Threats;
    • Necessity;
    • Accident;
    • Entrapment; and
    • Statute of Limitations.
See also, Drunk in Public.