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Disturbing the Peace in Louisiana – New Orleans

In the eyes of Louisiana law, “disturbing the peace” is a charge that covers a variety of offenses – public intoxication, lewd or obscene behavior, foul language, fighting – essentially anything that causes a disruption or poses a hazard to the public. In a city like New Orleans, where visitors come from all over the world to cut loose, this puts immense pressure on police to create a stable and safe environment.

Why Police Make So Many of These Arrests

As a result of this pressure, police have an incredible amount of discretion in how much evidence they really need in order to place you under arrest for disturbing the peace. With immediate action being the priority, police will often make arrests based solely on their own judgement of the situation and the testimony of those present.

Thankfully, you have a constitutional right to challenge these charges in court, where the inadequacy of the evidence at hand can work to your advantage.

What Actions Constitute Disturbing the Peace?

As the charge of “disturbing the peace” covers a variety of offenses, it can be helpful to see specifically which actions can be construed as disturbing the peace. If charged with disturbing the peace for any of the following offenses, you can expect consequences that include a 90-day prison term, fines up to $100, mandatory community service, probation, or a combination of each.

Public Intoxication: Stumbling out of a French Quarter bar after a few too many is hardly uncommon. That said, it can become a criminal offense the moment your intoxication becomes a public nuisance, for example if you were to begin shouting incoherently at strangers or accosting people.

Engaging in a Fight: People argue all the time – it’s generally only when the argument gets physical that police are forced to intervene. Even a heated shouting match can be considered a disturbing the peace, if the commotion proves alarming for those nearby. Regardless of who started the fight, the police will end it with an arrest.

Using Offensive Language: Letting the occasional R-rated word in public isn’t a crime, but it can elevate to that level if you are consistently using offensive or derogatory language toward an individual or group in public. If your language is causing a scene, or you are using it to intentionally aggravate others, you can be charged with disturbing the peace.

Group Violence: One person acting violently or disruptively might be enough to warrant a disturbing the peace charge, but a group of three or more individuals almost certainly will. If you and your friends are engaging in “violent and tumultuous behavior,” you can be charged as a group.

Unlawful Assembly: The first amendment to the Constitution guarantees “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The key word, however, is peaceable. If an organized protest or gathering is held without the proper permits (for example if it’s in a public space) or without first informing the police, any unruly behavior on the part of the gathering can result in charges for the organizers and participants.

Interrupting Lawful Assembly: As stated, the First Amendment bars the government from disrupting a lawful assembly. Private citizens are held to the same standard. If you are interrupting a lawful gathering, whether assembled by the government or by other citizens, and you cause a scene that requires police intervention, you will be charged.

 Disrupting Funerals or Blocking Funeral Routes: Louisiana has a rich funerary tradition, from expansive family processions to the famed French Quarter celebrations of life. These traditions are protected by law from outsiders looking to disrupt them, block their processional routes, distress mourners or otherwise interrupt the solemnity of the occasion. Make a scene during a funeral or attempt to stop a funeral procession and the police can intervene and charge you.

Avoiding a Conviction for Disturbing the Peace

If you are charged with disturbing the peace, your immediate priority is to get those charges dismissed or reduced. A conviction for disturbing the peace can have severe consequences, so avoiding them is crucial.

These consequences include a mark on your permanent criminal record, which can show up on background checks and jeopardize your ability to get a job, find a place to live, or pursue professional licensing. In the future, if you run into further legal trouble, that conviction can compound the consequences you’ll face for that. If you are an immigrant in this country, a conviction can jeopardize your status and your ability to remain here.

That’s to say nothing of the financial hit you’ll take from fines, court costs, legal fees and insurance premiums. Or the stress you’ll experience once family, friends and colleagues find out about your conviction.

For all these reasons and more, it’s important that you have the charges against you dropped or dismissed. But how?

Ways to Beat the Disturbing the Peace Accusation

As mentioned earlier, you have the right to respond to these charges in court, and the general law enforcement strategy of “secure the arrest now, find the evidence later” in public disturbance cases can work to your advantage. There are several ways your attorney can approach your defense, including:

  • • Showing that you didn’t intend to disturb the peace.

  • • Proving that the accusations and testimony against you were false, either stemming from a personal vendetta by a witness or a baseless accusation by bystanders.
  • • Arguing that the “disturbing” actions were considered protected speech under the First Amendment.
  • • Proposing that a case of mistaken identity has occurred.
  • • Provide an alibi with evidence that shows you weren’t present at the time of the disturbance.
  • • Demonstrating that you were acting in self-defense.
  • • Calling into doubt the veracity of the evidence being brought against you.


How Claiborne Firm Can Help

The Claiborne Firm has helped countless clients face accusations of disturbing the peace, obtaining the best possible outcome through the strategies outlined above. But the biggest difference we make in your case is through our thorough preparation. When you hire us, you benefit from a defense team that is dedicated to learning more about the circumstances of your case than law enforcement and the prosecution. We investigate every aspect of your case, finding and securing exculpatory evidence, locating witnesses who can corroborate your story, and analyzing every detail.

That way, when it comes time to fight for you in court, we have a meticulously planned strategy for challenging the evidence against you, demonstrating flaws in the prosecution’s story and highlighting reasons why the charges against you should be dismissed or reduced. It’s an aggressive strategy that has proven successful again and again.

Your freedom and dignity are worth fighting for. Call us today or submit your contact information below to get started.


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