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What is 'breach of the peace?'

A Connecticut resident can be arrested for breach of the peace, a crime also widely known as disturbing the peace, for any number of actions. In general, it applies to any type of action or words that compromise others' right to quiet, peace, health, safety or the morals of the community.

Such laws are designed to prevent public disorder. Breach of the peace can involve actions as serious as fighting, threatening someone or causing him or her to feel threatened. It can also apply to things more commonly considered nuisances, such as letting your dog bark for too long or playing music too loudly.

Connecticut has both felony and misdemeanor breach of the peace statutes. Both involve intentionally causing inconvenience, alarm, annoyance or creating the risk of those things. First-degree breach of the peace, which is a Class D felony, involves placing a "nonfunctional imitation of an explosive or incendiary device or an imitation of a hazardous substance in a public place or in a place or manner likely to be discovered by another person."

The misdemeanor breach of the peace charge, which is considered a Class B misdemeanor, is likely the more common one that Connecticut residents can find themselves facing. It can include actions such as assaults or threats if done in a public place. It can also include using obscene language in public or any public exhibits, including posters and signs that are considered obscene or offensive.

Some of the actions that fall under "breach of the peace" are in and of themselves crimes. However, if they occur in a public place, defendants can find themselves slapped with this additional charge. Under Connecticut law, a public place is defined as "any area that is used or held out for use by the public whether owned or operated by public or private interests."

Meanwhile, actions such swearing at someone, that likely wouldn't carry any charges if done in the privacy of your home, could carry a criminal penalty if you do it out on the street where others can hear and be offended by it.

If you or a loved one is facing a breach of the peace charge, whether as a stand-alone charge or in conjunction with other alleged crimes, it's essential to get guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney to determine what your options are.

Source: FindLaw, "Disturbing the Peace," accessed Oct. 01, 2015

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