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Disorderly Conduct vs. Disturbing the Peace

January 18, 2021

What Is the Difference Between Disturbing the Peace and Disorderly Conduct?

Disorderly Conduct vs. Disturbing the Peace

California laws criminalize numerous behaviors that harm the public in general. Some of these crimes fall under a group of offenses that are considered to be disorderly conduct. Other actions may only be thought of as disturbing the peace. All of these laws target specific behaviors that upset public order. Many of these crimes can also lead to more serious charges beyond disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace.

Disorderly Conduct Is a Range of Crimes

There is a wide range of criminal activity that falls under the umbrella of California’s disorderly conduct criminal statute. Actions that are considered criminal disorderly conduct include:

  • Prostitution or solicitation of prostitution
  • Begging for money or goods (panhandling)
  • Hanging around someone else’s property without authorization (loitering)
  • Peeking into an inhabited building while on private property without authorization
  • Public intoxication
  • Squatting on someone else’s property without permission
  • Lewd public conduct, such as exposing yourself to someone else
  • Secretly recording or viewing someone else’s body through invading their privacy

Many of these crimes must take place in public. For example, it is not disorderly conduct to be intoxicated in your own home, provided you do not commit other crimes. However, if you are drunk on a public street, you can be arrested for public intoxication disorderly conduct.

Actions That Constitute Disturbing the Peace

There are three separate ways that you can commit the crime of disturbing the peace in California.

They are:

  • Starting or engaging in a fight in a public place
  • Maliciously or willfully creating a noise that is loud enough to disturb someone else
  • Using offensive language that is inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction in public (fighting words)

Like disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace is generally committed in a public place, although in some circumstances, you could be charged for being purposefully loud at your own home.

If you have been accused of fighting in public, you may face additional crimes such as battery. An experienced lawyer can offer defenses to a disturbing the peace fighting charge, such as that you were acting in self-defense.

The Punishments for Disorderly Conduct and Disturbing the Peace

One key difference between disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct laws in California is the severity of the punishments. Disorderly conduct violations are always misdemeanors, while disturbing the peace can be charged as either a misdemeanor or just a civil infraction.

As a misdemeanor, a disorderly conduct charge carries a maximum penalty of:

  • Six months in county jail
  • A $1,000 fine

There can also be additional criminal penalties for your action that led to a disorderly conduct charge. When charged as a misdemeanor, the maximum consequences you can face for disturbing the peace are:

  • 90 days in county jail
  • A $400 fine

If you are only charged with a civil infraction for disturbing the peace, you will face a fine. All misdemeanor crimes can also be subject to summary probation instead of jail time.

If you or someone you loved has been arrested or charged with disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct in Los Angeles, California, you need a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side. There are specific defenses available for each offense. Contact the Chambers Law Firm today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free case evaluation with a member of our knowledgeable legal team.

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