What Does It Mean to Disturb the Peace?

People who are in public are expected to behave in a way that doesn’t disturb others. While there are some instances in which normal actions might irritate people, there are laws that prohibit many actions that jeopardize the peace.

When individuals do disturb the peace, they might face criminal charges for these actions. Disorderly conduct is often the charge levied when the incident isn’t violating other laws. In some cases, these criminal charges might be one of many that stem from an incident.

What actions might fall under this charge?

A person bullying a student at the school or near it might face this charge.

Here are some potential examples of “disturbing the peace”:

  • Using words that may be considered offensive that could incite a riot in a public place
  • Shouting in a public place in a way that might cause violence
  • Challenging someone to fight
  • Actually fighting
  • Shouting profanities out of a car window for a prolonged period in front of a home
  • A dog barking incessantly in a residential area
  • Playing loud music during quiet hours in a city

Are there any excluded activities?

Annoying or embarrassing someone in public wouldn’t be disturbing the peace. Giving someone the middle finger or using other crude gestures isn’t likely going to get you into trouble. Horseplay or bumping into someone usually are not against the law. It is important to note that all of these might lead to criminal charges if they are done with the purpose of trying to incite violent acts by others.

What elements must be present?

Typically, the actions must have been intentional, willful or malicious. The circumstances of the incident are taken into consideration, too.

Disturbing the peace usually results in a misdemeanor charge. However, if there are serious elements at play, like fighting someone, you might face a felony.

It is also possible that minors face this charge in the juvenile justice system. The penalties are bit different from those in adult court, but they should be treated seriously.

No matter what type of criminal charge you are facing, you should address it head-on. Learn what options you have for a defense. Even a misdemeanor conviction would be a mark on your criminal record. Be sure to think about this when determining how you are going to face a charge of disturbing the peace.