In California, individuals can be charged with disturbing the peace when using offensive language in public, engaging in unlawful fighting, or making unreasonably loud noise. A conviction of breaching the peace in the state is a misdemeanor or an infraction. It is punishable by a fine up to $400 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

Is There a Defense I Can Use If I Didn’t Mean to Disturb the Peace?

Yes. A defendant can contend they didn’t act with intent, maliciously, or willfully to disturb the peace. If the defendant reasonably believed their words or actions wouldn’t provoke a violent, immediate reaction, then they would most likely not be found guilty.

Can I Use the Defense of Being Falsely Accused of Breaching the Peace?

Yes. A person can be charged with disturbing the peace, but be falsely accused. The false accusation can result from an argument with someone or someone not liking your behavior.

Is Self-Defense a Defense to Disturbing the Peace Charge?

Yes. This charge often results from unlawful fighting. Self-defense occurs when an individual uses force to defend themselves. This defense can be use when:

  • The defendant reasonably believed they’d suffer immediate bodily harm
  • The defendant did not use more force than needed to defend themselves
  • The defendant reasonably believed force was the only way to protect themselves from someone
  • The defendant did not start the altercation or provoke the aggressor

Can I Use the First Amendment as a Defense?

Yes. A defendant can’t be guilty of disturbing the peace if their speech was protected by First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 

Should I Talk to a Lawyer About My Case?

Yes, it’s important to discuss your case with a California criminal lawyer for the best chance to fight your charge.