New York Disturbing the Peace Laws

Playing loud music, engaging in fisticuffs, or yelling at someone in a public place is just a short list of examples of what it means to disturb the peace. These violations go beyond mere annoyance and truly violate the community's sense of peace and tranquility.

Disorderly Conduct in New York

New York's laws regarding disturbance of the peace fall under the more extensive category of disorderly conduct. Fighting, at its core, is the antithesis of peace. Therefore, it is not surprising that this is an important category of disorderly conduct. Any type of public fighting such as drunken brawls, slugfests, or rioting may be considered a disorderly conduct violation. Additionally, participants may also face more serious charges such as assault and/or battery charges.

Words that Disturb the Peace

You do not have to engage in actual physical activities to violate New York's disturbing the peace laws; certain words and language can also constitute a violation. For example, if you shout or use profanity in public to instigate violence, then you may be in violation of New York's disturbing the peace laws. Although there is a First Amendment right to free speech, there are limitations to that right and it's possible that your actions could still constitute a breach of the peace.

New York Disturbing the Peace Laws at a Glance

The chart below provides a summary of state laws related to disturbing the peace laws in New York, including links to important code sections.

Statutes and Elements of the Violation

Penal Law Section 240.20 (Disorderly Conduct)

A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when engaging in the following:

  • Fighting, violence, tumultuous or threatening behavior
  • Unreasonable noise
  • Abusive or obscene language or gestures in public
  • Disturbance at a gathering or meeting of people
  • Obstruction of traffic (vehicular or pedestrian)
  • Noncompliance with police order to disperse when congregating with others
  • Creation of hazardous or physically offensive condition which serves no legitimate purpose

 

Penalties and Sentencing

 

  • Disorderly conduct is considered a violation in New York; violations in New York do not result in criminal records.
  • Violations are punishable by up to 15 days in jail and a fine.

Possible Defenses

  • Self-defense or defense of others
  • Entrapment
  • Outrageous police conduct
  • The incident or event did not involve a significant segment of the public

Related Offenses

Penal Law Section 240.40 (Public Intoxication)

Penal Law Section 245.00 (Public Lewdness)

Penal Law Section 240.35 (Loitering)

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

New York Disturbing the Peace Laws: Related Resources

Talk to an Experienced Attorney about Your Case

Although violating New York's disturbing the peace laws will not result in incarceration, you should still take it seriously if you are facing charges. Consider talking to an experienced criminal defense attorney in the state of New York who can help you decide how to proceed with your case.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

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