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Disturbing the peace is known by a variety of terms, including disorderly conduct and breach of peace. It involves acting in a manner that disrupts the peace of the community or interferes with public order.
Similar laws exist in all 50 states and the laws themselves are extremely broad, as they encompass a wide variety of transgressions. Typically, a charge of disturbing the peace is considered a misdemeanor. However, depending on the state, certain infractions that may fall under this umbrella may push the charges into felony territory.
What is Considered Disturbing the Peace?
Any activity you engage in that disrupts another person in the course of his or her daily life, or interrupts another person's ability to conduct personal business, might be deemed disturbing the peace.
Statute varies widely by state, but there are commonalities. These include:
- Allowing your dog to bark excessively
- Attempting to incite violence in a public place
- Bullying students at or near a school
- Continuing to play loud music at night after being asked to stop
- Loud arguments or challenging someone to a fight in a public place
- Purposely annoying hotel guests by loudly knocking on hotel room doors
- Shouting or yelling obscenities or profanities from a car window, in front of another's home, for extended periods
- Unlawful public assembly
- Using offensive language in a public place that could reasonably be expected to incite violence
Before levying a charge of disturbing the peace, most states require that the behavior be malicious and willful. In the case of fighting, if you are defending yourself or another, it does not count as disorderly conduct (thought it likely would for the aggressor).
Accidental actions, such as bumping into someone, are not grounds for a disturbing the peace charge. Neither are actions that embarrass or annoy another.
Please note that, even if your actions were nonviolent in nature, if those actions can be reasonably expected to incite violence, you may be found liable.
What are the Penalties for Disturbing the Peace?
The severity of the penalties varies according to state and the particulars of the charge, i.e. what actions led to the charges and whether you face felony or misdemeanor charges.
Typically, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is 12 months in a local jail, though shorter sentences are far more common. For a first offense, you may serve no time. However, if you have prior convictions, you likely face some jail time. Felony convictions carry harsher sentences, typically served in a state prison. You may also receive a sentence of "time served," meaning you don't have to serve any additional jail time.
Fines and probation are common penalties for disturbing the peace charges. For a first offense, expect to pay anywhere between $100 and $1,000 in fines, depending on aggravating and mitigating factors. If you have prior convictions, you likely face fines up to $2,000.</p>
Probation may be levied in lieu of or in addition to jail time. Typically, the sentence ranges between 6 and 12 months, and requires you to fulfill certain conditions. These include regular meetings with a probation officer, remaining crime-free, and drug screening.
What are the Penalties for Disturbing the Peace in Ohio?
Ohio statute refers to this as disorderly conduct and charges it as a minor misdemeanor with fines of $150. Aggravating factors elevate the charge to a 4th degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and fines of $250.
In Ohio, recklessly causing alarm, annoyance, or inconvenience leads to a charge of disorderly conduct. In addition, you may also be charged if you engage in offensive behavior or conduct that presents a risk of harm while intoxicated.
What are the Penalties for Disturbing the Peace in Arizona?
Arizona charges most disorderly conduct as a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and fines of $2,500. If the disorderly conduct includes a firearm, it becomes a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to 12 months in prison.
What are the Penalties for Disturbing the Peace in Missouri?
Missouri charges a first offense peace disturbance as a Class B misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months and fines of $500. Prior convictions elevate it to a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail with minimum fines of $1,000, and a maximum fine of $5,000.
Schedule a Free Consultation
If you face disturbing the peace charges, schedule a free consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. He or she will listen to the details of your case and advise on next steps.