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California law enforcement loves the disorderly conduct law. It allows them to exert their authority in situations that don’t fit under any other criminal act. And this often means the people allegedly violating the California disorderly conduct laws don’t even know they are breaking the law.

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But in addition to applying disorderly conduct statutes in arresting and charging general raucous behavior, it’s also applied to some very concrete offenses.

California Disorderly Conduct Laws Defined

Under California law, disorderly conduct is defined as conduct that “disrupts public order”. With this sort of broad definition, it’s easy to see how this could be interpreted in a variety of ways. Here are just a few offenses prosecuted under the disorderly conduct law:

  • Panhandling
  • Loitering
  • Public Intoxication
  • Prostitution
  • Window peeping

Penalties

Disorderly conduct is considered a misdemeanor charge. This means it can result in up to one year in jail and fines. Depending on the facts of your case and your criminal history, there’s a good chance your attorney could speak with the prosecution about avoiding jail time and serving probation instead.

Ref: California Penal Code Section 647

Disturbing the Peace

Disturbing the peace is another broadly interpreted charge. A charge of disturbing the peace is often applied when an act isn’t quite serious enough to warrant a disorderly conduct charge. It’s also sometimes used in plea agreements where the defendant is originally charged with disorderly conduct but agrees to plead guilty to disturbing the peace instead.

Acts that can be considered disturbing the peace include:

  • Disturbing others with loud, unreasonable noise
  • Using offensive words to incite violence
  • Fighting

Although this is also a misdemeanor charge, it carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and fines.

Ref: California Penal Code Section 415

You don’t have to be a hardened criminal to face a California Disorderly Conduct charge. As a matter of fact, many of the people charged with disturbing the peace or disorderly conduct have otherwise clean criminal records.

The bottom line is, you can beat a charge like this. Whether you work out a favorable plea agreement with the prosecution or if your attorney successfully motions to have the charges dismissed, it’s unlikely you’ll serve the maximum sentence, especially when you have a criminal defense attorney advocating on your behalf.

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