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Disturbing the Peace Law & Defense

PC 415 Crimes

The law on the crime of disturbing the peace is found at California penal code section 415. According to penal code 415, there are three different ways a person may disturb the peace:

  • Fighting or challenging someone to a fight in a public place [PC 415(1)]

  • Willfully and maliciously disturbing another person by loud and unreasonable noise [PC 415(2)]

  • Using offensive words that are likely to provoke another person to violence [PC 415(3)]

Despite the fact that there are several specific crimes that fall under the heading of PC 415, the district attorney will sometimes file any one of the above disturbing the peace charges under the general heading of PC 415(a), without the specific subsection that would otherwise apply.

This article deals with the two most common crimes charged under PC 415: PC 415(1) disturbing the peace by challenging a fight in public, and PC 415(2) disturbing the peace with loud noise.


PC 415(1): To prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime disturbing the peace by fighting or challenging someone to a fight under PC 415(a), the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant willfully challenged someone to a fight, and

  • The defendant and the other person were in a public place or public building when the challenge or fight was made, and

  • The defendant did not act in self-defense.

Note: When the law states that the defendant acts "willfully" it simply means that the defendant acted on purpose or with intent.

PC 415(2): To prove that the defendant is guilty of the crime of disturbing the peace by Loud and Unreasonable Noise under PC 415(2), the district attorney must prove:

  • The defendant maliciously and willfully disturbed another person by causing loud and unreasonable noise, and

  • The defendant was not engaged in a lawfully related activity.

Note: According to PC 415(2), the defendant has to have acted purposefully. In other words, there is no accidental disturbing the peace.

In addition, to disturb someone means to cause loud and unreasonable noise that creates a clear and present danger of immediate violence or the noise must be used for the purpose of disrupting lawful activities. However, the district attorney does not need to prove that the defendant intended to provoke violence when he or she disturbed the peace with loud noise. It is sufficient if the noise creates a clear and present danger of violence even if the defendant did not intend to do so.

PC 415(2) Penalty

Note: All of the penalties associated with disturbing the peace crimes, including PC 415(a), 415(2), and 415(3), are identical, including the fine amount, if any.


PC 415(a): Disturbing the peace by loud and unreasonable noise under PC 415(2) is a misdemeanor or an infraction. If found guilty of misdemeanor PC 415(2), the defendant may face up to 90 days in jail; however, probation without jail is a common sentence in disturbing the peace cases. Infractions carry no jail time but the there are fines associated with infraction cases.

Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period supervision instead of jail. Probation sentences are allowed in PC 415 cases, but they are not guaranteed. A probation sentence for misdemeanor disturbing the peace cases is called summary probation, informal probation, or court probation (synonymous terms). Sometimes an actual jail sentence will be ordered as a term of probation, but in San Bernardino county, unless a court says otherwise, that jail sentence may be served alternatively on work release or house arrest.


Note: In some cases of disturbing the peace it may be possible to reduce the charge from a misdemeanor to an infraction, or have the charge dismissed. Whether or not a reduction or dismissal of the charge is applicable depends largely on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any.

Bail: The scheduled bail amount for disturbing the peace charges in San Bernadino County is $5,000. Sometimes, a defendant will be allowed an own recognizance release (OR) (as opposed to being required to post the bail). Every PC 415 case is different and whether or not a judge will allow a defendant to be released from custody on his or her own recognizance depends on the facts of the case and the defendant's criminal history, if any. in a PC 415 case.

In addition to possible jail time, if found guilty of any PC 415 crime, the defendant may face fines, probation terms, criminal protective orders, professional license restrictions, immigration consequences, and more.

Defense to PC 415

The most common defense to PC 415 crimes (both PC 415(1) and PC 415(2), include, but are not limited to the following: Insufficient evidence, mistake of fact, intoxication, insanity, consent in a public forum, statute of limitations, and more.

If you are charged with disturbing the peace under PC 415(1), 415(2) 415(3), or the general heading of 415(a),, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. We have successfully handled hundreds of disturbing the peace type criminal charges. Call today!


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Related Crimes

  • Refusal by crowd to disperse when ordered PC 416

  • Disturbing the Peace with LoudNoise PC 415(2)

  • Disturbing the Peace with Offensive Language Likely to Cause Violence PC 415(3)

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