Disturbing The Peace Charges: What You Should Know

Police Arrest

Disturbing the peace is a crime in which someone violates another person’s personal peace. Although most of us agree with the law itself, the actions that constitute breaking it are often minor affairs. Whether you had an argument in public or you couldn’t keep the noise down at a party, you need to fight this kind of charge like any other. Here’s some advice for doing this.

Of course, the action you take and the defense you use all depends on the exact details of the case. You should discuss your legal plan with your criminal defense attorney. However, there are a couple of common defenses which can be used for a lot of situations. One of these is upholding that the level of disturbance did not reach the level of offence. This would be flimsy for a lot of other charges, but disturbing the peace is often very subjective. The police will decide themselves whether the conduct at the scene constitutes a disturbance of the peace. True, your behaviour may have been obnoxious or irritating to someone. Usually though, this isn’t enough to charge someone with disturbing the peace. Remember that there’s a lot of wiggling room whenever you’re facing such a subjective charge.

If you can’t admit to a non-criminal disturbance, there are a few, less flexible defenses you could use. These include denial of the incident altogether. You could also use defense of yourself or others, or that you were protected under the first amendment. Usually, you’d use the self-defense or defense of others defense when found fighting in public. It’s fairly common for one person to turn an argument physical on a Friday night. Then, the other person defends themselves, and both of them being charged with disturbing the peace. If you were the defending party, then you’d have a shot at claiming self-defense, and beating the charge. You probably already know what a first amendment defense is. Here, you’ll try to overcome the charge by pointing out your constitutional right to free speech.

At every stage in the process, ensure you understand the consequences of these convictions. If you’re found guilty but it’s treated as an infraction, it won’t get on your permanent record, or show up on background checks in the future. Some states, however, will charge it as a misdemeanour. These will stay on your criminal record, and affect your employment opportunities in the future. In the majority of courts, it could go either way. This depends on any other offences committed during the incident, prior offences, and your conduct in court. Here, the judge may have discretion to treat it as an infraction or a misdemeanour. If the charge is sustained, then you’ll probably be given a fine. If it’s charged as a misdemeanour, then there’s the possibility of jail time.

Facing a charge of disturbing the peace can feel pretty nerve-wracking. However, if you understand your position and make the right choices, you can walk from the whole mess. My last piece of advice; be open with your lawyer and take their advice!

Beth Jones is a valued contributor to various blogs.

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