The Nevada crime of breaching / disturbing the peace occurs when someone willfully disturbs a person, family, or neighborhood with either:
- loud or unusual noises,
- tumultuous and offensive conduct,
- threatening or quarreling, or
- fighting or challenging to fight
The test of the statute reads “NRS 203.010 Breach of peace. Every person who shall maliciously and willfully disturb the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person or family by loud or unusual noises, or by tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.”
Violating this section is a misdemeanor in Nevada that typically carries just a fine. However, the maximum punishments include:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
In many cases, the prosecutor is willing to drop breach of peace charges as part of a plea bargain in exchange for a small fine. Typical defenses include:
- No willful and malicious conduct
- False accusations
- Mistaken Identity
In this article, our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss the following “breach of peace” topics:
- 1. Definition
- 2. Penalties
- 3. Dismissals
- 4. Defenses
- 5. Record seals
- 6. Immigration consequences
- 7. Related offenses
Disturbing the peace is a broad “catch-all” offense that comprises any kind of loud or disruptive behavior, such as:
- conducting oneself in an offensive manner in public,
- making threats to someone at a bar,
- challenging someone to a fight, or
- stumbling around drunk on the street1
Location is an important component of whether a person violates NRS 203.010. A person who acts rambunctiously in a park with children nearby is more likely to get cited than someone acting similarly at, for example, the Electric Daisy Carnival or Burning Man.
Also see our article, Legal remedies when neighbors play their music too loud in Las Vegas.
Jail is unlikely unless the defendant has a substantial criminal history. As a misdemeanor, disturbing the peace carries a sentence of:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines2
In practice, however, the judge typically orders just a fine and rarely imposes incarceration. But even though an NRS 203.010 case is minor, defendants are still encouraged to retain an attorney and fight the charge. In many cases, the judge will agree to dismiss the charge completely.
Note that depending on the case, police may issue citations to breach of peace suspects instead of arresting them. Citations are essentially treated the same as traffic tickets:
If the defendant blows of the citation and fails to pay the fine or appear in court, then the judge will issue a bench warrant for the defendant’s arrest. If this happens, the defendant can be arrested at any time and held without bail. And the defendant’s attorney would have to file a “motion to quash” with the court in an effort to get the bench warrant recalled.
2.1. Plea Bargains
Because breach of the peace is a minor offense, many defense attorneys attempt to plea bargain more serious charges such as battery in Nevada (NRS 200.481), challenging to fight in Nevada, or solicitation in Nevada down to a breach of peace. A breach of peace conviction does not look as bad to prospective employers as crimes that involve fighting or prostitution.
It is very possible to get a breach of peace charge dismissed, especially if the defendant has no past criminal convictions. In practice, Nevada judges are usually amenable to dropping disturbing the peace charges if the defendant pays a fine.
Nevada police sometimes cite law-abiding people for “disturbing the peace” for doing nothing more than protesting, defending themselves, or simply having a good time. Common defense strategies to NRS 203.010 allegations include:
- No willful and malicious conduct
- False accusations
4.1. The defendant engaged in no willful and malicious conduct
An element of NRS 203.010 is that the defendant acted willfully and maliciously. This is often a subjective standard that may be difficult for the prosecution to prove.
Perhaps the defendant was just exercising his/her constitutional rights to free speech or protest or was defending him/herself. Or perhaps the defendant was suffering from a medical event such as seizures or diabetic comas where he/she had no control over his/her conduct.
Whatever the situation, the defendant committed no crime and should not be convicted if the D.A. cannot prove he/she acted maliciously and willfully.
4.2. The defendant was falsely accused
It is not uncommon for people to falsely accuse innocent people of criminal conduct out of anger, revenge, or a genuine misunderstanding. Sometimes people even plant false evidence in an effort to incriminate someone else.
In circumstances like this, criminal defense attorneys would conduct a thorough investigation to unearth communications such as text messages or voicemails that could show that the accuser has a motivation to lie. The defense attorney would also try to find surveillance video that shows the defendant did nothing wrong. As long as there is insufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the charge should be dismissed.
4.3. The defendant was misidentified as the culprit
It may be difficult for the police to correctly identify which individual(s) are responsible for a brawl or disturbance, especially if there is a large crowd. And sometimes law enforcement arrests innocent people who were at the wrong place at the wrong time.
In these situations, criminal defense attorneys would search for any available surveillance video and eyewitnesses that could definitively show that the defendant broke no law. Such evidence may convince the D.A. to drop the charges.
People convicted of violating NRS 203.010 can petition the court for a record seal one (1) year after the case ends. Note that the record seal process takes a few weeks to go through.3
If the defendant gets the “disturbing the peace” charge dismissed, then there is no waiting period to get a record seal: The defendant can begin the process right away.4
Violating NRS 203.010 is not a deportable offense. However, immigration law is constantly changing; therefore, any immigrant charged with a crime is advised to seek legal counsel right away to help ensure he/she may stay in the country. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
7.1. Disorderly Conduct
Disorderly conduct in Nevada is essentially the same offense as NRS 203.010. The only difference is that disorderly conduct is a county crime whereas a breach of peace is a state crime. They carry the same penalties.5
Many Nevada trespass crimes occur when rowdy casino patrons refuse to leave a casino after they have been asked to leave. Like NRS 203.010, trespass is a misdemeanor carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.6
7.3. Inciting a Breach of Peace
Provoking a breach in Nevada comprises using words, signs, writing, or gestures to incite others to breach the peace. It makes no difference if a riot never occurs. Like NRS 203.010, inciting is a misdemeanor carrying up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.7
Cited for disturbing the peace in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. In many cases, we may be able to get the charge totally dismissed so that you can pursue a record seal right away.
Cited in California? See our article on Penal Code 415 PC | California disturbing the peace law.
Cited in Colorado? See our article on Colorado disorderly conduct laws.
- NRS 203.010.
- Id.; NRS 193.150.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- CCO 12.33.010.
- NRS 207.200.
- NRS 203.030; NRS 203.040.