People throughout California have the right to practice their religion without disruption. This means that individuals who disturb religious services can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 302: Disturbing a Religious Meeting.
It can be difficult to understand the exact scope of PC 302 violations. After all, the Constitution also grants people the right to free speech. Find out more about how the right to practice religion and the right to free speech interconnect in California with the Simmrin Law Group.
The Right to Free Speech in California
You are constitutionally entitled to free speech in most situations around the country. However, there are exceptions to this ruling. You may, for example, be aware that you’re not allowed to shout about a fire for no reason in a movie theater.
Individuals are also prohibited from making certain statements in places of worship. Acting in a disruptive manner can lead to PC 302 charges.
You should be aware that criminal charges can also be applied for disturbing the peace in other locations. Individuals who use offensive language or make loud and unreasonable noises in other locations can be prosecuted under California Legal Code Section 415: Disturbing the Peace.
Defining Disturbing a Religious Meeting in California
We have established that you are not allowed to disturb religious services in California. Now we can go over the exact definition of a disturbance as prohibited under PC 302. Individuals may be prosecuted under PC 302 if they:
- Engage in Profane Discourse
- Make Unnecessary Noise
- Perform Rude or Indecent Behaviors
These disturbances must be intentional for PC 302 charges to apply. The disturbances must take place in or around a tax-exempt place of worship for an individual to be charged with disturbing a religious meeting.
Note that some PC 302 violations may involve trespassing onto the property of a religious organization. Other violations take place merely if an individual engages in disturbing behavior close to the religious institution.
Examples of Disturbing a Religious Meeting
Man A is not pleased when a mosque is built in his neighborhood. He stews about it for a while and then enters during a religious service one week, ranting angrily and shouting threatening things. He could be charged under PC 302 for disturbing a religious meeting.
Man B is out with some friends early on a Sunday morning. They are hanging around close to a nearby church and are making a lot of noise, along with some very crude comments. They are accused of disturbing a religious meeting, but might avoid a conviction since they did not act intentionally to disturb anyone.
Results of a Conviction for Disturbing a Religious Meeting
California’s court system prosecutes disturbing a religious meeting as a misdemeanor-level offense. A criminal conviction under PC 302 can lead to the following penalties:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to One Year
Note that, in some PC 302 cases, a judge will instead sentence the accused to a period of probation. This probation generally requires an individual to complete:
- Up to 80 Hours of Community Service for a First Time Offense
- Up to 160 Hours of Community Service for Subsequent Offenses
Options for a Legal Defense for PC 302 Charges
A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles may be able to help you if you are facing charges for disturbing a religious meeting. You can get help going over your options for a legal defense today. Depending upon your situation, a lawyer may be able to show that:
You Didn’t Intend to Disturb a Religious Meeting
Individuals should only be convicted of disturbing a religious meeting if they are acting intentionally. If you accidentally behaved in a manner that worshippers found disturbing, you may be able to avoid a conviction under PC 302.
You Didn’t Act Rudely, Indecently, or in a Profane Manner
Generally, it is a society that determines whether a specific behavior is acceptable or not. This means that you could avoid a PC 302 conviction if you were acting in a way that most people would find reasonable, even if the worshippers at the place of worship found your actions offensive.
Call for Help Handing Disturbing a Religious Meeting Charges
Start focusing on building a defense for California Penal Code Section 302: Disturbing a Religious Meeting charges by calling the Simmrin Law Group now. You can speak with our criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles today to get a FREE initial case evaluation.
Let us help you go over your legal options. Just call (310) 997-4688 or complete our online contact form.