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Posted on January 28, 2016 in Juvenile Crimes

“Disturbing the Peace” – How the Arizona Justice System Looks at Young Offenders

Does disturbing the peace become a criminal offense when you have your music too loud at 3:00 AM or does it take more serious disturbances to turn it into a criminal matter? Many people aren’t quite sure how arresting officers qualify a “disturbing the peace” offense. Here’s some information to clarify the laws.

What Does Disturbing the Peace or Disorderly Conduct Mean in General?

Any activity that causes an unreasonable disturbance in a public place may fall under the category of disturbing the peace. Fighting in the park, playing music at an unreasonable level at inappropriate times, or generally disrupting others in a public area are all examples of disturbing the peace.

The conduct does not have to be illegal in nature, it must only infringe on the rights of others. Disorderly conduct becomes a criminal offense if the activities continue despite a warning, or if the actions are likely to lead to a more serious public problem such as violence.

Cases of Disorderly Conduct in Arizona Youth

In 2012, the state released a report indicating that disorderly conduct accounted for over 2,200 youth arrests in the state. Many cases of disorderly conduct also involve elements of other crimes including:

  • Truancy
  • Graffiti and other acts of vandalism
  • Underage alcohol consumption
  • Traffic violations
  • Drug possession and distribution
  • Assault
  • Theft

The Perception of Disorderly Conduct vs. Real Occurrences

Everyone has a different definition of disturbing the peace. Some people believe juveniles should not gather in groups in public places for any reason that does not involve schoolwork or extracurricular activities. Other people believe as long as their actions aren’t causing a significant disturbance or threatening others in the area, then the conduct is acceptable.

In general, young people can legally congregate in public spaces on a regular basis. They have as much of a right to use parks, libraries, and other spaces as adult community members. However, juveniles may not understand how they come across in a group setting. Their behavior may feel threatening to some community members who aren’t sure about the group’s intentions. Older people, in particular, may misread the situation and contact the police for a gathering that doesn’t warrant intervention.

Preventing Disorderly Conduct

Disorderly youth in public places are one of the most common issues police must handle, requiring a significant amount of police time. Because of the age of the offenders and frustration of whoever complained about the conduct, dealing with these complaints appropriately requires police skill and sensitivity. The police must balance youths’ rights against complainants’ rights, as well as distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate complaints.

Communities can take several steps to reduce the rate of disorderly conduct complaints against juveniles. Often, young people engage in unethical or disorderly conduct because they lack a positive recreational outlet. Encouraging participation in community centers, gyms, and appropriate after-school activities can reduce the overall number of complaints. Teenagers, in particular, need a safe space that allows them to exercise a certain level of independence without putting them in a dangerous environment.

Addressing a Charge of Disorderly Conduct

Without the presence of additional criminal charges, many courts are willing to drop disorderly conduct charges. Children playing music too loudly or congregating in public spaces do not pose a serious threat to society. However, parents should hire legal counsel if their child has been accused of criminal charges to avoid unnecessary legal consequences.

If your child is facing criminal or disturbing the peace charges, you need a defense attorney who understands Arizona laws regarding juveniles. At Orent Law Offices, we routinely handle juvenile cases of all kinds. Contact our Phoenix criminal defense lawyers for a free consultation.