Public Disturbance Law & Legal Definition


The offense of public disturbance is usually defined as a misdemeanor. State and local laws governing public disturbances vary, so local laws should be consulted for specific requirements in your area. Some of the activities which may constitute a public disurbance include:

  1. Loud noise; or
  2. Offensive language addressed in a face-to-face manner to a specific individual and uttered under circumstances which are likely to produce an immediate violent response from a reasonable recipient; or
  3. Threatening to commit a felonious act against any person under circumstances which are likely to cause a reasonable person to fear that such threat may be carried out; or
  4. Fighting; or
  5. Creating a noxious and offensive odor;
  6. Being in a public place or on private property of another without consent and purposely causes inconvenience to another person or persons by unreasonably and physically obstructing:
  7. Vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  8. The free ingress or egress to or from a public or private place.

Some things which may be excluded from the definition of a public disturbance include:

  1. Sounds caused by natural phenomena;
  2. Sounds originating from aircraft in flight;
  3. Sounds that originate at airports which are directly related to flight operations;
  4. Sounds created by the discharge of firearms in the course of lawful hunting activities;
  5. Sounds created by surface carriers engaged in commerce by railroad;
  6. Sounds created by safety and protective devices where noise suppression would defeat the intent of the device, or is not economically feasible;
  7. Sounds created by firealarms and warning devices, bells, chimes, and carillons not operating continuously for more than five minutes;
  8. Sounds originating from officially sanctioned parades and other such officially sanctioned public events;
  9. Sounds created by motor vehicles, licensed or unlicensed, when operated off public highways, except when received in residential districts;
  10. Sounds created by equipment used for highway maintenance;
  11. Sounds created by emergency equipment and work necessary in the interest of law enforcement or for the health, safety, or welfare of the community.
  12. Sounds originating from existing natural gas transmission and distribution facilities.
  13. Unamplified sounds originating from public parks, playgrounds, and recreational areas during times they are open for public use.

The following is an example of a local law dealing with public disturbances:

" A. It is unlawful for any person to cause, or for any person in possession of property to allow to originate from the property, sound that is a public disturbance noise.

B. The following sounds are public disturbance noises:

  1. The frequent, repetitive or continuous sounding of any horn or siren attached to a motor vehicle, except as a warning of danger or as specifically permitted or required by law;
  2. The creation of frequent, repetitive or continuous sounds in connection with the starting, operation, repair, rebuilding or testing of any motor vehicle, motorcycle, off-highway vehicle or internal combustion engine within a residential district, so as to unreasonably disturb or interfere with the peace and comfort of owners or possessors of real property;
  3. Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on or near the public streets, particularly between the hours of eleven p.m. and seven a.m. or at any time and place as to unreasonably disturb or interfere with the peace and comfort of owners or possessors of real property;
  4. The creation of frequent, repetitive or continuous sounds which emanate from any building, structure, apartment or condominium, which unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace and comfort of owners or possessors of real property, such as sounds from musical instruments, audio sound systems, band sessions or social gatherings;
  5. Sound from motor vehicle audio sound systems, such as tape players, radios and compact disc players, operated at a volume so as to be audible greater than fifty feet from the vehicle itself;
  6. Sound from portable audio equipment such as tape players, radios, and compact disc players, operated at a volume so as to be audible greater than fifty feet from the source, and if not operated upon the property of the operator;
  7. Sound from outside public address systems, voice amplification and any other form of loud speaker operated at a volume audible beyond the boundaries of the property from which the sound originates. This provision shall not apply only to licensed community activities.

This section shall not apply to regularly scheduled events at parks, such as public address systems for baseball games or park concerts. (Ord. 97-33 § 1 (part), 1997) "