California Penal Code §415 describes certain behaviors that will be considered unlawful and if proven beyond a reasonable doubt will be filed as a misdemeanor or an infraction. The following behaviors will be unlawful under the relevant penal code section:
1. Any person who unlawfully fights in a public place or challenges another person to a fight in a public place.
2. Any person who maliciously and willfully disturbs another person by loud or unreasonable noise
3. Any person who uses offensive words in a public place that are likely to invoke violent behavior.
A disturbing the peace charge is referred to as a “wobbler”. A wobbler is a charge that can either be filed as more than a misdemeanor, felony or an infraction. A disturbing the peace charge can be filed as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. However, it cannot be charged as a felony. A code section is still referred to as a wobbler if it can be filed as two different levels, doesn’t have to be all three.
Whether a person being charged with disturbing the peace will be facing misdemeanor or infraction charges will determine on the circumstances of each specific case. The disturbing the peace charge is commonly used in plea bargaining. Oftentimes other criminal charges are reduced to a disturbing the peace charge.
For example, a person is charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. However, the case is a weak case and the person’s Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer negotiates with Prosecutors and reduced the charge from a drinking in public to disturbing the peace. The reduction can remain a misdemeanor, or it will be reduced to an infraction.
If the person has no priors and the case is really a weak case , the government will know that and will not want to try it before a Judge. In those situations, the charge will be reduced to a disturbing the peace, and likely an infraction.
In contrast, lets take the example of an assault case. A person has been charged with assault upon her husband. The case gives rise to a domestic violence claim which can have serious consequences in addition to those of a general assault. However, an experienced criminal defense lawyer can negotiated with Prosecutors to have the charge drop any domestic violence associations and be charged as a disturbing the peace. However, in that situation, it is not likely that it would be filed as an infraction.
To determine whether your case has the possibility of being reduced to a disturbing the peace charge, consult with an expert right away. Knowing your rights and the strength of your case will help make a decision on how to proceed, whether it is best to negotiate with Prosecutors or to accept a plea bargain during your arraignment.