Disturbing the peace, also known as disorderly conduct, is a misdemeanor criminal offense. Penalties may include up to a year in county jail and monetary fines if you are convicted of the charges. A conviction will cause you to have a criminal record that can prevent you from getting certain jobs, being able to rent housing and traveling to certain countries.
Because of the penalties that you may face for disturbing the peace, you will want to hire a lawyer to defend you against these charges. Here are three defenses that are commonly used in these cases.
1. You Didn't Do It
One of the most common defenses used by criminal defense lawyers for a disturbing the peace charge is that you didn't do whatever you are being accused of. The person who witnessed you disturbing the peace may have identified the wrong person. Alternatively, you may be accused by someone in your life who is holding a grudge against you and accusing you of things that did not happen.
Unless the police specifically witnessed your actions or you are caught on camera, stating you didn't do it can be a great defense because it is up to the prosecutor to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you did what you are accused of.
2. You Acted in Self-Defense
Another defense to disturbing the peace is that you acted reasonably or in self-defense. Disturbing the peace can range from screaming in public and creating a nuisance to fighting in public and causing a scene. There are many times where you may disturb the peace, but only because someone forced your hand.
If you are walking down the street with your underage daughter and someone makes inappropriate sexual comments to her, you may cuss them out. In this scenario, it is unlikely you will be convicted of a disturbing the peace charge as you reacted in a way that many other parents would react, even if your behavior wasn't the best.
Likewise, if a random person comes up and punches you, you are able to defend yourself and hit them back to subdue them. Disturbing the peace charges likely will be dropped if you acted in self-defense.
3. Your Actions Don't Meet Criteria
The last defense to a disturbing the peace charge is that your actions do not meet the criteria of disturbing the peace. There is a very fine line between what is considered bad behavior and what is considered disturbing the peace. If you are a bit obnoxious, embarrass someone or flip someone off, you are not typically engaging in conduct that is considered disturbing the peace.
For example, if you go to a department store and a clerk won't take your return, you may get mad and call the cashier a few choice names or even embarrass her. This doesn't reach the threshold of criminal conduct. However, if you continue to rant and rave despite being asked to leave, make threats or begin to throw merchandise around, you have surpassed the normal threshold and may be guilty of disturbing the peace.
There is a lot of gray area in what surpasses the threshold for disturbing the peace. A great attorney can argue that your actions may not have actually crossed over into criminal behavior.
Disturbing the peace cases are complicated. The laws are murky and there is a broad interpretation of what is disturbing the peace and what is not. If you have been charged with this crime in Idaho, you want a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling these types of cases. Contact Hart Law Offices, P.C. to schedule a consultation with an experienced defense attorney.