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What is the Crime of ‘Disturbing the Peace?’

Disturbing the peace is a crime also known as “disorderly conduct” or “breach of the peace.” It involves a person acting in such a way that disrupts the public or undoes a community’s tranquility. This encompasses a wide range of specific crimes, and law enforcement officers have considerable latitude to classify crimes as “disturbing the peace.”

Below is a quick overview of what you need to know about this category of crime.

Actions and intent

You do not necessarily have to commit an act that creates a public disturbance. Engaging in unlawful conduct is enough for you to be charged with disturbing the peace. While the classic example of being “drunk and disorderly” certainly applies, so too do other illegal actions that do not involve a loud public display.

What you say can also qualify as disturbing the peace. Making serious threats that cause a reasonable fear of injury would be an example.

In some states, one thing that differentiates disturbing the peace from other offenses is that you can be convicted for the crime even if you did not intend to disturb public order. All a prosecutor needs to prove is that you intended to commit the actions you did, not necessarily that you intended to cause a disturbance.


There are some circumstances in which disturbing the peace may result merely in an infraction and a fine rather than a criminal charge. This means your disturbing the peace incident would not show up on background checks, and you would be able to honestly say you were not convicted of a crime when applying for jobs, college or housing.

For sound legal guidance when facing criminal charges in Pennsylvania, meet with experienced Reading criminal defense lawyer David R. Eshelman.


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