Disturbing the peace is a common minor offense that many people face in California. While it may carry the potential of a fine and jail time, these charges can often come from mundane situations that are not severe enough to warrant jail time. The following examples may help you understand some common ways that people commit the crime of disturbing the peace in California. If you or your child was arrested for disturbing the peace in the Ventura area, talk to the Ventura criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.

Disturbing the Peace vs. Disorderly Conduct in CA

Many states use the term “disorderly conduct” for the same conduct that California calls “disturbing the peace” or “breach of the peace.” These offenses are usually somewhat nonviolent crimes that deal with being loud or disruptive or starting a fight in a public place.

The Model Penal Code, written by the American Law Institute in 1962, created a suggested standardized criminal code that many states adopted. In this code, “disorderly conduct” was the name given to crimes that involve disturbing the peace. However, California did not adopt this code, and its “disorderly conduct” law is very different.

While “disturbing the peace” under Penal Code 415 is somewhat close to what people might commonly call “disorderly conduct,” California’s “disorderly conduct” offense under Penal Code 647 is very different. This crime deals with solicitation of prostitution, peeping, and performing sexual acts in public, though it also deals with the crime of being intoxicated in public.

Examples of Breach of the Peace in California

Committing a crime does not always involve serious actions, violence against another person, theft, or other clear “wrongs.” Some criminal laws are intended to keep the peace by punishing behavior that does not fit in with society. Disturbing the peace is one of those crimes, aimed more at stopping loud and obnoxious behavior rather than stopping truly dangerous or criminal acts. The following are all examples of common offenses that may qualify as disturbing the peace:

Bar Fights

Especially when alcohol is involved, arguments and disagreements can get out of hand. If someone escalates a verbal altercation into a physical one, both of them might be arrested for disturbing the peace. Under Penal Code 415(1), anyone “who unlawfully fights in a public place” is guilty of disturbing the peace. This means that anyone involved in the fight can be arrested and charged, not just the person who threw the first punch. However, defending yourself from violence is not “unlawful” and should not be considered disturbing the peace. In the case of an aggressor and a defender, the aggressor could also be charged with assault in addition to disturbing the peace.

Fights at School

Like fighting in a bar, fighting in school is a disruption to public peace and safety that can get you arrested. However, Penal Code 415.5 has special penalties for repeat offenses associated with disturbing the peace on school grounds. These penalties can include a mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail and an increased maximum jail term and criminal fine. Under this subsection, fights on “the grounds of any school, community college, university, or state university” all qualify to increase the penalties. If you are a minor, you would likely face juvenile charges for this kind of offense.

Noise Complaints

Many people get off with warnings for noise complaints, but if police are called multiple times in a close period or the volume you are using is far too excessive, you may be charged with disturbing the peace. Under Penal Code 415, the noise must be “loud and unreasonable” to qualify for charges. The government must also prove that you used this noise “maliciously and willfully” to disturb others. Especially if you were already given multiple warnings, any further attempts to bother a neighbor or get revenge for a noise complaint has stronger evidence that the noise was used “maliciously and willfully.”


If you try to start a fight with someone – or you harass someone loudly and obnoxiously with the knowledge that you might start a fight – you could be arrested for disturbing the peace. Under the first subsection of Penal Code 415, challenging someone else to a fight is just as bad as physically fighting and can also lead to charges. Alternatively, using “offensive words in a public place” can also disturb the peace if the actor knows that the words are “inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.” Things like cursing someone out or insulting their parents, friends, or significant others loudly and obnoxiously could easily provoke a violent response. These kinds of words could lead to breach of the peace charges under California law.

Ventura, California Defense Attorney for Disturbing the Peace

If you, your child, or someone else in your family was charged with disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace in California, contact the Ventura criminal defense attorneys at The Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth. Our criminal lawyers represent the accused and fight to get charges dropped and dismissed, or to get penalties reduced. To schedule your free consultation, contact us online or call us today at (805) 643-5555.