Breach of the peace is a very common criminal charge in most states across the country. Most state laws have left the definition of this offense intentionally vague so that any time someone disturbs the peace, law enforcement can use their discretion when deciding to arrest a person or not. A breach of the peace charge is usually related to the charge of disorderly conduct, which is even broader in definition. Like disorderly conduct, anyone convicted of breaching the peace will likely not face jail time, but there are still serious consequences for those charged.
Examples of Breaching the Peace
Breaching the peace is essentially disturbing other people by being loud or lewd. Some examples of breaching the peace include:
- Public drunkenness
- Public urination
- Fighting in public
- Using violence to protest or riot
- Shouting obscenities
- Playing music too loudly
- Disturbing a public gathering
Any time law enforcement suspects that one person is disturbing people around them, they may lay charges of breaching the peace.
Proving Breaching the Peace
There are five elements of proof the prosecution must establish when a breach of the peace case makes it to trial. These include:
- The defendant behaved in a certain manner
- The behavior was unreasonable
- One least one person was disturbed or alarmed by the act
- The action disturbed the peace
- The defendant knowingly and intentionally committed the act
Criminal defense attorneys often use these elements of proof as a defense. Many will argue that the defendant’s behavior was not unreasonable, intentional, or that the act did not disturb the peace.
Penalties for Breach of Peace
Breach of the peace is usually considered a Class C misdemeanor, which is the least severe offense. In many cases, law enforcement will provide a warning before taking further action. However, they also have the authority to charge a person. Depending on the individual’s state’s law, if convicted, individuals can face a jail time, probation, and a heft fine. A judge may also sentence a person to a combination of all three, typically depending on whether the defendant had prior offenses.
Although these penalties may not sound harsh, it is also important to remember that breach of the peace is often a charge juveniles face. While these individuals may face different penalties under the juvenile system, they will still face serious consequences. Juveniles and older teens may have a permanent criminal record that can prevent them from obtaining employment, housing, and even academic opportunities.
Our Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help You or Your Child with Charges
Breach of the peace may not sound like a serious offense, but it can come with steep consequences. If you or your child has been charged with this crime, it is important that you speak to our skilled criminal lawyer in Civic Center San Francisco, CA. Call a law firm to schedule a consultation.
Thanks to Hallinan Law Firm for their insight into criminal law and breach of the peace.