Disturbing the Peace Law & Defense
California PC 415
The law on the crime of disturbing the peace is found at California penal code section 415. Per that section, there are three different ways a person may disturb the peace:
- Fighting or challenging someone to a fight in a public place [PC 415(1)]
- Willfully and maliciously disturbing another person by loud and unreasonable noise [PC 415(2)]
- Using offensive words that are likely to provoke another person to violence [PC 415(3)]
Despite the fact that there are several specific crimes under PC 415, which all require specific and different facts, the district attorney will sometimes file any one of the above disturbing the peace charges under the broad heading of PC 415, without the imposition of the specific subsection that applies.
This article deals with the two most common crimes, PC 415(1) disturbing the peace by challlanging a fight in public, and PC 415(2) disturbing the peace with loud noise.
The law on the different types of PC 415 Crimes
Disturbing the Peace/Unreasonable Noise [PC 415(2)]:
To prove the that the defendant is guilty of the crime of disturbing the peace by Loud and Unreasonable Noise under PC 415(2), the district attorney must prove:
- The defendant maliciously and willfully disturbed another person by causing loud and unreasonable noise, and
- The defendant was not engaged in a lawfully related activity.
According to PC 415(2), the defendant has to have acted purposefully. In other words, there is no accidental disturbing the peace.
In addition, to disturb someone means to cause loud and unreasonable noise that creates a clear and present danger of immediate violence or the noise must be used for the purpose of disrupting lawful activities.
The district attorney does not need to prove that the defendant intended to provoke violence when he or she disturbed the peace with loud noise. It is sufficient if the noise creates a clear and present danger of violence even if the defendant did not intend to do so.
Sentence & Penalty for PC 415(2)
Disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise under PC 415(2) is a misdemeanor or an infraction. If found guilty of misdemeanor PC 415(2), the defendant may face up to 90 days in jail; however, probation without jail is a common sentence. Infractions carry no jail time.
In some cases of disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise it may be possible to reduce the charge or have the charge dismissed. Whether or not a reduction of the charge, or dismissal of the charge is applicable depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history.
PC 415(2) is considered a wobbler, which means the crime could be charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction depending on the circumstances.
In addition to possible jail time, if found guilty of disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise (PC 415(2)), the defendant may face fines, probation terms, professional license restrictions, immigration consequences, and more.
Disturbing the Peace/Fighting or Challenging Someone to a Fight [PC 415(1)]
The crime of disturbing the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight is also found under California penal code 415.
In order for the district attorney to prove that the defendant is guilty of disturbing the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight under PC 415(1), the district attorney must prove:
- The defendant willfully challenged someone to a fight, and
- The defendant and the other person were in a public place or public building when the challenge or fight was made, and
- The defendant did not act in self defense.
When the law states that the defendant acts "willfully" it simply means that the defendant acted on purpose or with intent.
Sentence & Penalty for PC 415(1)
PC 415(1) is a wobbler, which means the crime can be charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction. If found guilty of misdemeanor disturbing the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight the defendant may face up to 90 days in jail. Infraction PC 415 charges carry no jail time.
All of the penalties associated with disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise (PC 415(2)), listed above also apply to disturbing the peace by fighting or challenging someone to fight in public (PC 415(1)).
Defense to PC 415 Crimes
The most common defense to PC 415 crimes (both PC 415(1) and PC 415(2), include, but are limited to the following: Insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, intoxication, insanity, consent in a public forum, statute of limitations, and more.
If you are charged with disturbing the peace under PC 415(1) or PC 415(2), contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. We have successfully handled hundreds of disturbing the peace criminal charges with many of those charges being dismissed or reduced to infractions. Call today
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Crimes related to PC 415: Disturbing the Peace
- Refusal by crowd to disperse when ordered PC 416
- Disturbing the PeaceD PC 415
- Disturbing the Peace with Loud and Unreasonble Noise PC 415(2)
- Disturbing the Peace by Challenging a Fight with Another Person PC 415(1)
- Disturbing the Peace with Offensive Language Likely to Cause Violence PC 415(3)