What counts as disturbing the peace?

Do you know when making noise in public crosses over from a nuisance into criminal territory? Being aware of what disturbing the peace entails can make a difference in your defense. 

According to FindLaw, some actions that count as disturbing the peace include loud or incessant knocking on hotel doors, fights or challenging someone to a fight, swearing that incites violence, loud dog barking, and music played overnight while people are trying to sleep. In addition, bullying or harassing a child near a school or shouting inappropriately out of your car are both other forms of disturbing the peace. Many of these actions cause obvious stress or disruption for those around you. Each circumstance is different, so details matter. The date, time, or even the place it occurs also influences the severity of the issue. 

However, there are guidelines beyond just the noise-making itself that help determine whether it is a criminal act. The act must be purposeful and you must have bad intentions while doing it. If it is accidental or merely a common action, you may not be at fault. Some common actions that do not disturb the peace are embarrassing someone, bumping into another person, any rude or inappropriate gestures such as giving the middle finger, or horseplay. It is not illegal to perform those actions in public, since they do not meet the full definition. Actions done in self-defense also are not illegal. 

Disorderly conduct can be a confusing and frustrating matter, but learning more about what counts as disturbing the peace may help your case. 

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