Disturbing the peace, which is sometimes referred to as breach of the peace, is an offense that is charged if someone engages in certain types of disorderly conduct. If your behavior or verbal acts interfere, threaten or jeopardize a person's right to tranquility, then you can be charged with disturbing the peace.
In New Jersey, a charge of disturbing the peace is not a very serious criminal offense. However, if you are found guilty of violating a town ordinance for this offense, it could appear on your record as an ordinance violation, a petty disorderly persons conviction or a disorderly persons offense conviction. This is something to keep in mind when you consider engaging in any type of behavior that may constitute disturbance of the peace.
What Constitutes Disturbing the Peace in NJ?
In New Jersey, we stated that disturbing the peace is a form of disorderly conduct. To be more specific, disturbing the peace refers to words or actions which can endanger the safety, health or morals of others, or can ruin the relative peace and quiet of a neighborhood or other public place.
Some of the behaviors that may fall under the umbrella of disturbing the peace can include holding a public assembly that you do not have a permit for, knocking or banging on doors of hotels or motels, shouting obscene language in front of a private house or other place of residence or verbally bullying someone in a public place.
Examples of Disturbing the Peace in NJ
If you are staying in a shore motel in Seaside Heights, it is unacceptable for you and your guest to intentionally disturb other guests in residence. You cannot, after a night of fun at Karma or Bamboo, go banging on the doors of the motel, either looking for someone or just to have some “fun” and see if you can annoy people. The guests who are being disturbed could call the manager who would then call the police and report a disturbance of the peace.
You and friends organize a protest over a decision to demolish a standing structure on the Asbury Park boardwalk. Americans do have the right to gather and assemble, but if you are going to have a protest or march in a public place, you do need to file a permit with the city or township. If you have not done this, and your protest draws a great crowd, which leads to yelling vulgar phrases, displaying vulgar signs, engaging in inappropriate gestures or noise, or otherwise getting in the way of the general day to day life at the site, you can be charged with disturbing the peace. The idea of protesting is not what is against the law, it is the manner in which you went about it in this instance that will get you in trouble.
Penalties and Punishment for Disturbing the Peace
Disturbing the peace is a charge that could involve penalties equivalent to the maximums allowed under New Jersey state law for disorderly persons offenses. This mean, if you are found guilty of disturbing the peace under a town or borough ordinance, you can face up to a fine of $1,000 and up to six months in jail. The penalties depend on whether or not the specific act you were charged with constituted an ordinance violation, a petty disorderly persons offense or a disorderly persons offense under the applicable law.
Contact an Attorney if Charged with Disturbing the Peace
If you or a family member have been issued a citation for disturbing the peace while in New Jersey, it is important to know how to best handle the charge you are facing. Contact Villani & DeLuca's defense lawyers today to obtain advise from an experienced lawyer. Villani & DeLuca represents clients throughout Ocean County and Monmouth County, New Jersey and offers free consultations. Call today!