¡Hola! ¡Hablamos español y estamos listos para ayudarte!

Disturbing the Peace

Get The Legal Help You Need

Make An Appointment

A disturbance of the peace, also known as a breach of the peace, is a criminal offense that occurs when a person engages in the form of disorderly conduct, such as fighting or threatening to fight in public, causing excessively loud noise, shouting, playing loud music, or even allowing a dog to bark for extended periods of time. When a person’s words or conduct endanger the right of others to peace and tranquility, they may be charged with a disturbance of the peace.

Disturbing the peace laws are covered by state or local ordinances. Although disturbing the peace is not considered a serious criminal offense, it is an offense punishable by imprisonment, a fine, or both.

What Constitutes Disturbing The Peace?

Generally, disturbing the peace refers to words or behaviors that compromise the safety, health, morals, or general peace and tranquility of the public. Disturbing charges of peace cover a variety of conducts and often fall under the broader “catch-all” category of disorderly conduct.

Some examples of disorderly conduct include:

  1. Fighting or challenging someone to fight in a public place
  2. Use offensive words in a public place likely to incite violence.
  3. Shouting in a public place intending to incite violence or unlawful activity
  4. Bullying a student on or near school grounds
  5. Knock on the doors of sleeping customers hard to annoy them
  6. Holding an unlawful public assembly
  7. Shouting profanities out of a car window in front of a person’s home over an extended period of time
  8. Allowing excessive dog barking in a residential area, and
  9. Intentionally playing loud music overnight, even after a fair warning.

In most states, the person’s conduct must have been intentional (willful) or with malicious intent (malicious). It is not enough that a person engaged in conduct that merely annoyed, harassed, or embarrassed another person. If fighting has been involved, it must have been illegal, not in self-defense or to protect someone.

To determine guilt, a court will look at the particular circumstances of each case. Some of the factors that a judge may consider include place, time, place, words, actions, and the person who was spoken to or touched (for example, a police officer, a teacher, a student, relative, or passerby).

Common actions that do not constitute disturbing the peace may include:

  • Engaging in horseplay;
  • Simply embarrassing someone;
  • Merely annoying someone;
  • Accidentally bumping into someone;

Give someone a gesture such as a middle finger (sometimes even against a police officer).
However, if a person’s non-violent actions are likely to incite violence or public disorder, criminal liability may apply.

Purpose Of The Law

Disturbing the peace is a law against public disorder and chaos. Laws against disorderly behavior, such as disturbing the peace, exist to prevent people from disturbing the peace of others when they are dealing with their daily and personal affairs.

Disturbing the peace can be charged in the larger catch-all crime of disorderly conduct, which includes many other types of public disorder, or he can be charged separately, depending on the factors listed above and the laws of the state concerned.

Penalties And Punishment

Disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor criminal offense. A person accused of a public disorder may face jail time of up to 90 days, fines of up to $ 400, or both. In many cases, disturbing the peace is a first criminal offense, and if so, a person can serve a prison sentence if convicted.

Your Rights As A Victim

If you, or someone you know, believe that you are the victim of disorderly conduct or loud and excessive noise or disruption, it is important to know what you can do to minimize or stop the harm you are experiencing.

What Can You Do?

Ask Them to Stop the Behavior

If the perpetrator is a neighbor or person you know, and you do not feel physically threatened, or in potential harm, you might explain that their conduct is problematic and ask him or her to stop the behavior. If the situation escalates, you must withdraw immediately.

Contact the Police

If the disease persists or if there is an imminent danger (such as fighting), you can contact the police and explain the situation to them. A person who disturbs the peace often receives a fair warning from the police. In most cases, police involvement may stop the disruptive behavior altogether.

Contact a Lawyer

Finally, if none of the above actions help your situation, it may be necessary to contact a lawyer. In addition to violating criminal laws against disturbances of the peace, disruptive behavior can violate nuisance laws, in which case bringing legal action against the perpetrator could help bring an end the disruptive behavior.

Defenses To Disturbing The Peace:

If you, or someone you know, are facing or may face disturbing the peace charges, it is important to know your legal rights and defenses to minimize or avoid penalties and/or criminal charges.

Disturbing the peace is a subjective charge. This means that the police have wide discretion to apply the charge to many types of disruptive behavior. Generally, defenses to criminal charges fall into two categories: (1) “I didn’t do it”, or (2) “I did it, but I had to” (as in self-defense or reasonable defense of others). It is also possible that your actions fall under the protection of the right of the First Amendment to freedom of expression. Finally, your actions in question may simply not correspond to the type of disturbing peace prohibited by law.

Additional Considerations:

Related Offenses

Peace disorder offenses include public intoxication, disorderly conduct, indecent assault and public nuisance. Such charges may be filed of, or in addition to, disturbing the peace charges. In addition, conduct prohibited by disturbing peace laws can expose the author to civil liability in a nuisance complaint file by an injured party such as a neighbor who has been continually disturbed.

Larger Criminal Charges

Due to the general nature of a disturbing charge, it is often included among the more serious crimes, such as prostitution, assault and battery, domestic violence or other criminal threats. Often, when a person is arrested for one of these greater offenses, they are additionally charged with the lesser offense of disturbing the peace.

Disturbing the Peace as a Plea Bargaining Tool

Defense lawyers often use disturbing the peace as a plea bargaining tool against the more serious charges faced by their clients. Because punishment for disturbing the peace often involves little or no jail time, the lesser charge of disturbing the peace is sought after in a plea negotiation. If you have been charged with a greater criminal offense, you may ask your lawyer whether negotiating a plea bargain for disturbing the peace might benefit you.

Disturbing the Peace and Permanent Criminal Records

In some cases, minor offenses such as disturbing public order are often excluded from the criminal record, professional background checks and other routine criminal activity checks. This is more common when the disturbing the peace conviction is a person’s first offense. Even so, there are some states and organizations that may require you to disclose this type of information, such as on school, government, or security applications. You should check with your local state laws to find when and how you may need to disclose past disturbing the peace charges and convictions.


Disturbing the peace is a crime against public disorder and chaos. Disturbing the peace laws cover a wide variety of behaviors and vary from state to state. Typically, behavior must be willful and with malicious intent to constitute disturbing the peace. Actions taken in reasonable defense of oneself or others do not qualify, nor do actions which constitute protected free speech.

Contact a local attorney to learn more about the specific disturbing the peace laws, and what defense(s) might apply to a specific situation.

Ask a Question,
Describe Your Situation,
Request a Consultation

Call (954) 522-9997 or fill out the short form below. We will usually respond within 1 business day but often do so the same day. Don’t hesitate, your questions are welcome.

Main Contact Form

* Required Fields

Your Information Is Safe With Us
We respect your privacy. The information you provide will be used to answer your question or to schedule an appointment if requested.
Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (954) 522-9997

Why Choose The Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A. ?

  • Confidential Case Assessment - During your confidential case assessment we will listen to the details of your case, and formulate a strategy to defend you as well as possible.
  • Highly Rated & Reviewed - Highly rated on Google, with a 5 star rating on respected legal site AVVO.
  • Focused Legal Practice - Our Attorneys have been helping individuals like you Navigate the law for over 25 years. Criminal Law is our top priority, let us make you and your case part of that focus.
  • Highly Responsive - We pride ourselves in fast response time when communicating with our clients. We will never let your questions or concerns go unaddressed.
  • Caring & Compassionate - This isn’t just a Criminal Charge, this is your life. We understand that, and our dedication to our clients helps get them back to their lives as efficiently as possible.
  • Bilingual - At the Law Offices of R. David Williams, we have staff that are fluent in English and Spanish, ensuring that each client gets proper representation.
  • Straight Shooters - Your situation requires honesty from both us and yourself. We will tell you what you need to know, not necessarily what you want to hear. Our approach focuses on efficiency and speed to resolve cases as quickly as we can.
  • No Case Too Difficult - This is where tenacity and knowledge of the law matter. We do what is necessary, even in complex cases.

  • Free Consultation – We provide free consultations, during which you can discuss the case and explore your legal options with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
  • Highly Rated – Our firm has accumulated numerous 5-star reviews on Google and the legal site Avvo.
  • Personal Attention – With a background in psychology, David Williams is uniquely positioned to help you with your legal needs while providing individualized attention and support.
  • No Case Is Too Big or Small – We handle everything from traffic tickets to grand theft, drug charges, and other major felony offenses. Regardless of the charge, you will have an advocate by your side when you choose The Law Offices of R. David Williams to represent you.
  • Tailored Representation – We don’t treat clients as numbers. To us, they are unique individuals who require legal representation that is tailored to their particular case. Thus, our firm customizes services based on your circumstances and needs.

Our Core Values

Our core principles have always been a paramount attraction to our clients.

Highest Standards

Great Service

Professional Team


Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (954) 522-9997

Real Clients, Real Testimonials

“Not gonna lie. I was scared at first – of course w anything w laws it’s very scary. But David was very professional , honest and true to his word. I felt so much better and confident that he was definitely gonna help me. And he did !! I’m truly grateful for him and his staff- his assistant Jessica is very warm and kind and is always on top of everything. Thank you guys so much!”

- Maria Cabrera -

View More

Professional Associations

Contact A Broward Criminal Attorney

Most importantly, David Williams makes it a priority to give you personalized service and attention with regard to your criminal case. Call our office at your convenience for a free consultation. We will schedule a personal consultation at your convenience with the attorney to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of your criminal case in Dade, Broward, or Palm Beach County. David Williams will provide you with the defense and counseling that is required to have a successful outcome for your criminal case.

David Williams prides himself on providing personal attention with regard to all aspects of your criminal or traffic matter. David Williams will provide you with a fair fee for the work required and will extend a payment plan that is suitable to your needs for your criminal matter.

Ask a Question,
Describe Your Situation,
Request a Consultation

Call (954) 522-9997 or fill out the short form below. We will usually respond within 1 business day but often do so the same day. Don’t hesitate, your questions are welcome.

Main Contact Form

* Required Fields

Your Information Is Safe With Us
We respect your privacy. The information you provide will be used to answer your question or to schedule an appointment if requested.

Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A.

15 SW 10th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315Questions or Schedule An Appointment? Click to Call (954) 522-9997

Contact Us

Law Offices of R. David Williams, P.A.

Hours of Operation

Mon - Fri : 9 am - 5 pm
If you have been recently arrested or charged with any criminal offense in South Florida, you need an aggressive, experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you.

After-hours support is Now Available!

We are thrilled to introduce our after-hours answering service, which ensures prompt response to all of your queries regardless of the time. Our dedication to your satisfaction extends beyond regular business hours. Please feel free to contact us anytime; we will be more than happy to assist you.

The information you obtain at this site is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship.

Skip to content