Beach of the peace is a crime that a person engages in some form of unruly public behavior, including fighting or causing excessively loud noise. When a person’s words or behavior risks another person’s right to peace and tranquility, he or she may be charged with disturbing the peace. Breach of the peace is a criminal offense that varies based on the jurisdiction.
Depending on the jurisdiction, different names may be used to label breach of peace. Disturbing the peace laws are overly broad and cover a wide range of behaviors. Most disturbing the peace offenses are usually misdemeanors, though more serious offenses may be felonies or civil infractions.
Breach of the peace law can be named several things including disorderly conduct, creating a public disturbance, or disturbing the peace. These various terms mean the same thing in different jurisdictions around the United States. In the majority of states, the person’s conduct must have been on purpose with bad intent. It can not be enough that a person engaged in conduct that merely annoyed, harassed, or embarrassed someone else. If there was fighting involved, the fighting must have been unlawful, and not in self-defense or the defense of others.
What are some Examples of Breach of the Peace?
To be convicted of disturbing the peace, it is not necessary to do something that results in a disturbance of the community’s order. Instead, all you have to do is engage in conduct that is unlawful or unreasonable to a normal person’s sensitivities. To commit the crime of breaching the peace, the act typically must be purposeful and malicious.
Some examples of criminal breach of the peace are listed below:
- Verbally fighting or threatening to fight in a public place;
- Shouting obscenities and threats in public;
- Playing music loudly out of a speaker and after certain hours in a neighborhood setting;
- A neighbor’s dog constantly barking during nighttime hours of the day;
- Shouting profanities out of a trailer in front of a person’s home for a sustained period; or
- Knocking on peoples doors with the intent to annoy them and create a distraction
These examples all vary depending on the factors of the case and are subject to change. A court of law will ultimately decide if a breach of the place has taken place.
What is Not a Breach of the Peace?
For there to be a breach of peace, the disruption must be in a way that causes the ordinary person to be disrupted. This does not include persons with unusually sensitive traits.
Listed below are some examples of behaviors that are not considered breaching the peace:
- Moving with ordinary contact into someone by accident in public;
- Gesturing with hands;
- Playing music at a reasonable level of sound;
- Harmless pranks, jokes, or goofing around; and
- Unintentionally annoying someone
The breach of peace law is designed to protect the safety and rights of citizens to be able to enjoy a reasonable expectation of peacefulness while in public or while in their homes. Although the examples above, do not result in a breach of peace these vary depending on the facts of the case.
What are the Penalties for a Breach of the Peace Offense?
The laws for breaching peace are often vague and difficult to pin down. For example, oftentimes breach of the peace is located in different forms of alleged, rowdy behavior. This will allow law enforcement officials to reduce, lessen, or prevent situations from possibly getting further out of control. Depending on the severity of the breach of peace action committed the punishment for breach of the peace can vary.
If the police determine that a breach of the peace took place depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances, the individual or individuals inciting the breach may:
- Be asked to leave the premises;
- Be issued a warning;
- Be issued a citation; or
- Be arrested.
A breach of peace offense is considered a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions. A judge may consider all the factors in order to determine what severity of punishment should be given for the crime. Listed below are possible punishments for breaching the peace:
- Jail time: Misdemeanor offenses carry a maximum time of one year behind bars in county prison. Misdemeanor offenses carry less if any jail time;
- Fines: Monetary fines for misdemeanors may be imposed by the court and typically range between $100-$1000;
- Community service: Sometimes judges will impose that the defendant gives back to the community by conducting different services. Community service jobs can entail working at a homeless shelter, assisting in a local clean-up project, or beautifying a local park; or
- Probation: A judge may impose a period up to one year where the defendant is on probation and must follow the terms of the probation during that time frame.
If the harm continues or if there is an imminent danger you may want to contact the police. A person who disrupts the peace is sometimes given a warning by police authority more severe actions if necessary. In some cases contacting the police is the perfect remedy to stop unnecessary behavior.
Under some circumstances when an individual faces charges of a more serious crime like a felony charge, the prosecution may lessen the offense and charge the person with a breach of the peace misdemeanor. This takes place most frequently with breach of peace charges because of the varying circumstances that come with a breach of peace charge.
Are there any Defenses to Breach of the Peace?
It is possible for someone facing a breach of the peace charges to claim self-defense as a viable reason why they may have been involved in, for example, a public brawl. Another defense that may be asserted is when the individual’s actions did not rise to the level of the actual crime.
This may be the case for instance if a person threatened to hit and fight another person and afterward claims that there was no threat and the fighting words were a bad joke. It is often very difficult to distinguish what is and what is not a breach of the peace. That is why a judge needs to review all the facts, information, and circumstances surrounding the case. The right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment may also be used as a possible defense to a breach of the peace crime.
Should I Contact a Lawyer if I’m Dealing with Breach of the Peace Charges?
No matter where you live, the ability to distinguish a breach of the peace violation can be a complicated legal issue. It is therefore important to speak to a criminal lawyer that has breach of the peace experience in your hometown.
A criminal lawyer will represent you in a court of law and help you with other parts of the legal process. That way, you can determine if there is a violation in your circumstances. When there is a violation, you will be guided by your lawyer to figure out the best plan of action to take for your particular case.