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Disturbing the Peace: Law and Penalties

Disturbing the Peace in Texas

Law enforcement officers in the state of Texas are responsible for maintaining order in public places and private residences. This means that they must ensure that incidents such as fights, public disruptions or potential emergencies are prevented or stopped quickly once they occur. With this task, police officers have the authority to arrest people who violate the safety and peace of any location.

Engaging in disruptive types of behavior may lead to an arrest and criminal charges being filed. Although this seems like a relatively minor offense, it can lead to serious legal consequences and a permanent criminal record.

What Is Disturbing the Peace?

Under Texas law, disturbing the peace or engaging in disorderly conduct covers a fairly broad category of actions. For example, disturbing the peace can refer to any action that is sufficiently disruptive enough to cause danger to others or to cause a potential emergency situation.

In order to be arrested and charged with disturbing the peace or disorderly content, a person must:

  • Be engaging in behavior that is or has the potential to cause a serious danger or public disturbance
  • Be engaging in such behavior willfully
  • Be engaging in such behavior with bad intentions

For example, a person who enters a public meeting and begins shouting, threatening others with violence or turning over tables and chairs may be arrested and charged with disturbing the peace. Also, a person who becomes intoxicated and shouts at others, knocks on doors loudly or generally causes others to fear for their safety may be placed under arrest.

However, simply being loud and boisterous is not necessarily grounds for an arrest. For example, a group of friends who are being loud at a restaurant or people who are laughing loudly in a public park may not be placed under arrest. This is true even if others feel that they are being a nuisance or a disturbance. If the police are called, the officers may request that the group of loud, rowdy people tone down their behavior but they may not necessarily be arrested for disturbing the peace.

Legal Penalties

A person who is arrested on charges of disturbing the peace and convicted of this crime may face some serious legal penalties. For example, a person who is convicted of disturbing the peace may face:

  • A conviction on an infraction charge
  • A conviction on a misdemeanor charge
  • Possible mandatory attendance at alcohol education courses or anger management courses
  • Community service
  • Monetary fines

Although infractions and minor misdemeanor charges don’t sound very serious, they can show up on an employment background check, causing serious problems down the road. Repeated convictions for this offense may be punished with more serious penalties, including jail time and steep fines. It simply doesn’t pay to get convicted of disturbing the peace in the state of Texas.

Legal Defenses

In order to be convicted on a charge of disturbing the peace, the prosecution must show that the defendant was willfully and intentionally engaging in behavior that was sufficiently disruptive.

A criminal defense attorney could use evidence and strong arguments to show that the person did not do these actions willfully or with bad intention.

For example, a person who is arrested and charged with disturbing the peace after getting into a fight can have a defense attorney argue that they were simply engaging in self defense. It is not a crime to fight back in self defense in the state of Texas. Also, a defense attorney could argue that the public disturbance was the result of an accident instead of willful, intentional behavior. If this strategy is successful, the charges may be dropped.


Are you or someone you know being charged with disturbing the peace? While it may not seem serious, attorney Matthew Sharp can help ensure that your rights are protected. Contact his office today at (713) 868-6100.

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