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What is Disturbing the Peace?

The California law defines the crime disturbing the peace under Penal Code 415. By definition, it occurs when someone is “disturbing the peace” by getting into a public fight, playing loud music or making extremely loud sounds, or using offensive words to incite a fight. 

Disturbing the peace is usually considered to be a wobbler charge, meaning that it can be charged either as an infraction, misdemeanor, or in very rare cases, a felony. 

Examples of Disturbing the Peace 

Sometimes, you will hear this offense being referred to as “police code 415,” and examples of this include: 

  • Getting into a bar fight with someone.
  • Getting into a fight in a public area.
  • Disturbing the public peace by playing loud music or making an unnecessarily loud noise.
  • Offending someone in public with the use of harsh languages such as curses or racial slurs. 
Penalties for Disturbing the Peace

As mentioned previously, under Penal Code 415 in California, disturbing the peace is defined as a wobbler criminal offense. Because of that, a prosecutor can choose to charge it as either a misdemeanor or a non-criminal infraction. 

The penalties you can get if charged with a misdemeanor are either:

  • Imprisonment in state county jail for up to 90 days.
  • A fine of up to $400. 
  • Both a fine and jail time.

The penalty you receive ultimately depends on the severity of the crime that was committed, and it is up to the state prosecutor to decide what it will be. 

Defense Against a Disturbing the Peace Charge 

If you consider yourself wrongly charged with disturbing the peace misdemeanor or felony, you may contest. 

You can challenge this PC 415 charge with a legal defense, and here are some of the most commonly used defense strategies:

No Criminal Intent 

A person can be considered guilty under these laws only if they intentionally wanted to incite violence and acted willfully and maliciously. This means that if the defense can show that the accused had no intent behind their actions, the charge can potentially be dismissed. 

Behavior Is Constitutionally Protected

Here, the defense has to argue that the accused is not guilty because his conduct is protected by the Constitution's First Amendment, which defends free speech. For example, if the defendant used offensive words during a protest or a rally or made a religious speech in a public place, his actions can be deemed as allowed under the constitution. 

False Accusation 

It’s often the case that people get wrongly accused of violating Penal code 415. That often happens with angry neighbors, who deem any noise to be unreasonable and call the police. Here, the accused can always claim he was unjustly blamed for the crime. 

Regardless of the classification of the offense, it is important that you seek the assistance of competent legal counsel to help you best understand your legal defense while identifying an outcome that best minimizes your risk. We here at the H Law group patiently await your call.

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