Disturbing the peace is a criminal offense in California under the state’s CA Penal Code 415. The code deals with the catchall crimes that are commonly known as disturbing the peace and entails legal consequences for anyone who breaches the peace in the state. It is enacted to maintain a general code of conduct in public spaces and to penalize people who disturb the peace in these spaces.
The CA Penal Code 415 defines three conditions under which someone can be alleged to breach the law,
- If the person fought another person or challenged him to fight in a public space
- If the person made unreasonable loud and malicious noise to disturb another person intentionally and harmfully
- If the person uses abusive or offensive language at the public space intended to provoke a violent reaction.
So, anything from fighting someone at the road about a parking slot, uttering racial or ethnic slurs to instigate a violent reaction or fight, or turning on music at high volume to disturb the neighbors after a strife can be considered as ‘disturbing the peace’ and cab be penalized under law.
Even though, the CA Penal Code 415 offences do not become the part of the criminal record of the person, it is important to have a reliable and qualified defense council to avoid any strict sentences or charges. The disturbing the peace offences are often charged as infraction or misdemeanor, but in some cases, these are charged as an ‘ordinance’ a minimum criminal offence in California.
Penalties for CA Penal Code 415
The penalty for the CA Penal Code 415 can include a fine or a jail term or both based on the seriousness of the offense and how it is charged.
An Infraction: In the case of an infraction, the offender has to pay a fine of $250 without any jail-term.
A Misdemeanor: If the offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the monetary file can be up to $400, or there can be a jail-time of maximum 90 days or both. In the case of second or third offense, the 90 days’ jail time can be minimum instead of maximum.
CA Penal Code 415 as Plea Bargain
Even though CA Penal Code 415 is a law in itself, it is often used as a plea bargain for more serious crimes to get reduced sentences for the clients. For example, a defense attorney may use the Code 415 to negotiate a plea bargain for the serious offenses like domestic violence, gang enhancements, etc.
Elements of CA Penal Code 415
For charges to be pressed against a person for ‘disturbing peace,’ the prosecutor has to establish certain elements of the law.
Willful conduct: In the case of fight or challenging someone to fight in a public space, the prosecutor should establish that the person willingly breached the conduct. It means that the fight was intentional and was done in a public space.
Malicious Intent: In the case involving loud or unreasonable noise, the malicious intent should be established. It means that prosecutor established beyond reasonable doubt that the loud noise was used to hurt or injure someone at a public space.
The intent of Inciting Violence: In this scenario, you acted intentionally to incite violence by using abusive or offensive language. It should be established that your intentions were to provoke violence.
Available Defenses in CA Penal Code 415
As defense attorneys for past 35 years, we have successfully fought hundreds of disturbing the peace cases with favorable results. By going through the facts of the case, making the visit to the incident site if necessary, and going through the police or arrest records, we identify the weaknesses and use them for a successful defense. The available defense includes,
- Establishing that the fight was only to protect yourself and you did not use more force than necessary to protect yourself. You feel threatened by the other person.
- Establishing that you did not have malicious intent behind the loud noise and you were not aware that the other person would be disturbed by it. If there are no requests from the suing party to lower the noise, it cannot be charged with an offense.
Establishing that your behavior was unintentional or protected by the constitution can result in dismissal of charges.