Disturbing the Peace – California Penal Code 415

California Penal Code 415 describes the crime of disturbing the peace which covers a broad range of public disruptive behavior – such as loud arguments, loud noises, challenges to fight someone, and even offensive words that might provoke a violent and immediate reaction from another person.

It should be noted that a PC 415 violation requires that the offense occurred in a public place – or any place open to the general public – including a sidewalk, parking lot, shopping mall, department store, among other public locations.  The broad definition of PC 415 means it doesn’t take much to find yourself charged with disturbing the peace.

For example, a common situation of a PC 415 charge includes a situation where intoxicated people become involved in an argument outside a local bar. When the argument advances to a point where one challenges the other to a fight in the parking lot, they could be charged with disturbing the peace.

Another situation where someone could face Penal Code 415 charges is when one person approaches another with a racial slur in public – resulting in a physical confrontation.  The individual using the slur could face charges because their public behavior could have provoked an immediate violent reaction.

It should also be noted that PC 415 disturbing the peace is a crime all by itself, but within the Los Angeles criminal justice system, it’s most commonly used a tool for a plea bargain with a prosecutor. In fact, most experienced criminal defense lawyers will ask a prosecutor for a disturbing the peace charge in an attempt to negotiate a lesser charge for another crime.

If you have been charged with PC 415 disturbing the peace, consult with our law firm to determine a strategy for best outcome. While this is a misdemeanor offense with minimal penalties, a conviction of your record could impact future opportunities.

To give readers better understanding on PC 415 disturbing the peace laws, our California criminal defense lawyers are providing an overview below.

Categories of Penal Code 415 Disturbing the Peace

The legal definition of California Penal Code 415, disturbing the peace, is broken down into three main categories of conduct, including the following:

  • Anyone unlawfully fighting in a public place or challenges someone to fight
  • Anyone willfully and maliciously disturbing someone with loud and unreasonable noise.
  • Anyone using offensive words in a public place that are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.

In each category above of disturbing the peace offense, the prosecutor will have to be able to prove the elements of the crime to obtain a conviction.

For instance, to prove you disturbed the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight, they must prove  the factors listed under CALCRIM 2688 Jury Instructions. This means they have to show you unlawfully fought or challenged someone to fight in public place – not acting in self-defense or defense of others.

Under California’s self-defense laws, you are allowed to reasonably defend yourself or someone else, if you had a reasonable belief you were about to suffer bodily harm. However, you must also have reasonably believed the force was necessary to protect yourself against the harm and you didn’t use any more force than necessary.

CALCRIM 2689 Jury Instructions describes the factors needed to prove disturb the peace with loud and unreasonable noise. It has to be proven the noise was used to maliciously disturb someone in public, presented a danger of immediate violence, or the noise was used on purpose to disrupt a lawful activity.

CALCRIM 2690 Jury Instructions describes the factors needed to prove disturbing the peace with offensive words. It has to be shown you used words in public likely to provoke a violent response from another person, and there was a clear and present danger they would erupt into violence.

What exactly is considered “offensive words?” Criminal courts will normally decide what qualifies as offensive on each individual case. However, it should be noted that words many people might consider profane or disrespectful won’t always be sufficient to pursue a Penal Code 415 disturbing the peace charges.

Penalties for PC 415 Disturbing the Peace

 California Penal 415, disturbing the peace, is known as a “wobbler” crime. This means the prosecutor has the discretion to file the case as either an infraction or misdemeanor crime.

They will normally base their decision on how to file the case based on the circumstances of the incident and your criminal record.

If you are convicted of PC 415 as an infraction, you will be facing only a fine up to $250. If you are convicted of PC 415 disturbing the peace as a misdemeanor offense, you will be facing up to three months in county jail, and a fine up to $400.

If you are convicted of PC 415.5, disturbing the peace on school grounds, you will be facing up to 90 days in county jail, and a fine up to $400.

Fighting PC 415 Disturbing the Peace Charges

Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can use a wide range of strategies to fight charges of disturbing the peace. All cases are unique and will first require a review of the details. The most common defenses include:

Lack of Intent

In certain cases, we might be able to make a reasonable argument you didn’t act maliciously or willfully to incite violence.

Self-Defense

In a public fighting allegation, we could potentially make a reasonable argument you can’t be guilty of PC 415 disturbing the peace because you were simply defending yourself or someone else. Perhaps we could show you reasonably believed you were going to be harmed and force to defend yourself.

Words Protected by Constitution

If accused of using offensive words, we might be able to argue the words you used were protected by your right to free speech under the First Amendment. If successful, you can’t be guilty of disturbing the peace.

If you were accused of California Penal Code 415 disturbing the peace, you should contact our law firm to review the details and options.

If convicted, it could impact your future opportunities for many years. Our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys may be able to negotiate with the prosecutor to avoid a conviction. We will review all the details of the incident to determine a strategy for best outcome.

Cron, Israels & Stark is a criminal law firm located at 11755 Wilshire Blvd, 15th Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90025. We offer a free case evaluation at (424) 372-3112.