Disorderly Conduct in California

Disorderly conduct laws differ significantly among states and municipalities, and the type of conduct covered by these laws and ordinances is quite broad. States typically categorize disorderly conduct (sometimes also called “disturbing the peace,” or “breach of the peace”) as any behavior that is likely to cause other people alarm, anger, annoyance, or an increased likelihood to engage in unlawful activity.

To learn more about disorderly conduct in general, see Disorderly Conduct Laws and Penalties.

Disorderly Conduct Offenses in California

California categorizes disorderly conduct into five offenses (although other charges, such as for public intoxication, may also apply).

To learn more about public intoxication and drunk in public crimes in California, see Public Intoxication Laws in California.

Disorderly conduct

In California, disorderly conduct includes soliciting and engaging in prostitution and other lewd or lascivious acts, and begging or soliciting alms in public. It also includes some instances of being intoxicated by drugs or alcohol in public, and loitering on private property when you have no lawful reason to be there.

This offense also includes invading someone’s privacy by recording or “peeping” at someone who is in a situation where they expect privacy—such as in a dressing room or bathroom—for the viewer’s sexual arousal or gratification.

Disorderly conduct is a misdemeanor, and penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both. Increased penalties may apply to second and subsequent convictions.

(Cal. Penal Code § 647.)

Fighting, noise, and offensive words

It is a crime in California to fight, or challenge someone to fight, in a public place; to purposefully disturb another person with loud and unreasonable noise; and to use offensive words in a public place that are inherently likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction.

Fighting, noise, and offensive words are all misdemeanors. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.

(Cal. Penal Code § 647.)

Riot

In California, the crime of riot involves using or threatening to use unlawful force or violence in a public place.

Riot is a misdemeanor. Penalties include a fine of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.

(Cal. Penal Code § 404.)

Disturbing the peace on a school campus

In California, it is illegal for non-students to fight, make loud and unreasonable noise, and use offensive words on school property or grounds.

This offense is a misdemeanor, and penalties include a fine of up to $400, up to 90 days in jail, or both. Increased penalties may apply to second and subsequent convictions.

(Cal. Penal Code § 415.)

Refusal to disperse

In California, it is illegal for two or more people to assemble to disturb the peace and refuse to comply with a lawful order by a law enforcement officer to disperse.

Refusal to disperse is a misdemeanor. Penalties include restitution (paying for damage caused by the crime) or community service.

(Cal. Penal Code § 404.)

Getting Legal Advice

Even though misdemeanor offenses often seem like they aren’t serious, you face significant potential penalties in California if you are convicted of any crime, even a misdemeanor. You should always consult an experienced California criminal defense lawyer if you have been charged with a crime, have been approached by the police as a target of an investigation, or need legal advice. Only a local attorney who has dealt with local law enforcement and prosecutors can give you advice about your case.

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