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My Neighbor is Creating a Public Nuisance. Can I Have Him/Her Arrested?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Oct 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Public nuisances--loud music, parties, neglected lawns, run-down vacant homes, stagnant pools--are a problem in cities across California. People who live near these nuisances may have done their best to get the owner of the property to fix the situation, but without results. 

In these situations, neighbors may start to wonder: should I call the police? Can I have the person creating the nuisance arrested?

As a matter of fact, creating or maintaining a public nuisance is a misdemeanor crime in California. People can go to jail for it under California Penal Code 372 and 373a PC--though they are more frequently hit with significant criminal fines.

On the other hand, it's important to remember that there is a specific legal definition of "public nuisance." Not all behavior that disturbs neighbors will count. For instance, California law specifies that a public nuisance must disturb an entire community or a considerable number of people. Activity that disturbs just one or two neighbors isn't enough.

Also, people are only prosecuted under California's public nuisance law if their behavior is not punishable under another law. So, for example, if you think your neighbor is manufacturing drugs or conducting an illegal bookmaking/gambling operation on his/her property, then s/he can be charged only under those laws, not under the public nuisance law.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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