Many states across the country have adopted laws that prevent against breaching the peace. In order to violate a breach of the peace law, a person must intentionally disrupt the public in a certain way. States use broad definitions capture any type of disruption, which can include:

  • Inconvenience to another person,
  • Annoying another person,
  • Alarming another person, or
  • Recklessly creating a risk.

This does not mean that when you annoy your neighbor by parking too close to his home you are guilty of breach of the peace. You must also have intentionally done something to disturb the public in one of the above ways. These actions can include:

  • Fighting in public,
  • Acting in a threatening way in public,
  • Assaulting or hitting another person,
  • Threatening to commit a crime,
  • Publicly displaying an offensive, indecent, or abusive advertisement,
  • Rioting,
  • Creating an unreasonable noise, or
  • Using obscene language or gestures in public.

What Goal Does a Breach of the Peace Law Serve?

As you can see, states that have adopted breach of the peace laws have broadly defined them. This is not an accident. Breach of the peace laws are created with several goals in mind. Aside from protecting the peace of the public, these laws allow police officers to arrest and take into custody people without a warrant. Breach of the peace laws are largely to assist police officers in preventing future crimes by giving them greater power to arrest potential criminals before a crime happens.

What Are the Consequences for Breaching the Peace?

States that have adopted breach of the peace laws generally treat them as misdemeanors. As such, criminal punishment can include:

  • Fines, ranging from $100 to $1,000,
  • Community service,
  • Treatment or rehabilitation programs,
  • Jail time, generally no longer than 30 days, or
  • Loss of driver's license.

Most states that classify breach of the peace as a misdemeanor also make certain situations felonies. Because breaching the peace incorporates such a broad range of actions, disturbing the public in any of the above ways in association with any of the following can be a felony:

  • Explosives or incendiary devices,
  • Deadly weapons, or
  • When the target is a child or elderly person.

Generally speaking, the consequences for committing a felony will be far greater than just committing a misdemeanor.

Do I Need an Attorney If I Am Charged with Breaching the Peace?

If you have been charged with breaching the peace, it is strongly recommended for you to contact a criminal defense attorney because you may also be facing additional criminal charges based on what your actions were. Only an attorney will be able to explain the relevant issues and help in your defense.