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What Is Penal Code 415? (Disturbing Peace & Public Nuisance Explained)

California Penal Code 415 describes the crime of disturbing the peace, which covers a large number of public disruptive behaviors including loud arguments, noises, challenges to fight, and even offensive words.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What Does Police Code 415 Say?

Under California Penal Code 415, it is illegal for a person to:

  • Unlawfully fight in a public place or challenge another person to fight;
  • Maliciously and willfully disturb another person with loud and unreasonable noise; or
  • Use offensive words in a public place that are inherently likely to provoke a violent reaction.

Actions that can result in being charged with disturbing the peace include challenging a person to a fight in public, playing music loud enough to disturb your neighbors, and using racial or ethnic slurs during a verbal confrontation.

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What is Disturbing the Peace?

Also known as breach of the peace, disturbing the peace is a crime that occurs when a person engages in some form of unruly public behavior, such as fighting or causing excessively loud noise. When a person's words or conduct interferes with another's right to peace or tranquility, that person may be charged with disturbing the peace.

What is the Penalty for Disturbing the Peace?

Most cases of disturbing the peace are misdemeanor offenses that are punishable by up to 90 days in jail, court fines, and probation. Disturbing the peace may also be charged as an infraction, in which the defendant would have a non-criminal offense that would only result in a fine.

Can You Go to Jail for Disturbing the Peace?

Disturbing the Peace is not a criminal offense: you can be arrested, but you cannot be charged. The police have the power to detain or arrest you if a “breach of the peace” has occurred, or to prevent it from occurring.

What is a Public Nuisance?

A public nuisance generally refers to any conduct that interferes with the rights of the public. In California, “anything which is injurious to health, or is indecent, or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a public nuisance.”

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