The U.S. Constitution grants citizens the right to free speech as well as the right to lawfully assemble. These rights may sometimes appear to conflict with one another when one group disturbs the meetings of another group.
In these situations, the court system may utilize California Penal Code Section 403: Disturbing a Public Meeting. You can find out more about how PC 403 charges are used, the results of a conviction, and more right here with the Simmrin Law Group.
Defining the Usage of PC 403 Charges in California
Individuals should not face PC 403 charges every time they speak up during a public meeting. Instead, the court should only charge an individual with disturbing a public meeting if they intentionally act in a way that:
- Violates the Implicit Customs or Explicit Rules That Govern a Public Meeting
- While Knowing – or Having Reason to Know – That Their Actions Would Violate These Customs or Rules
- And Their Actions Interfere with the Meeting in a Substantial and Unlawful Way
This means that it must be by an individual’s actions that disturb the meeting. Individuals should not be charged merely for the content of the message that they are delivering.
Focus on Examples of PC 403 Violations
You can boost your understanding of PC 403 charges with these examples:
A group of disgruntled citizens travels to a local community meeting being held to discuss rezoning in their city. They are fiercely against the rezoning process. They bring along loudspeakers, set them up in the meeting, and blare a recorded protest so loudly that no one else can be heard. They could be charged under PC 403.
The school board holds a meeting to discuss changing the start time for local high schools. They hold the meeting at the same time that a band competition is going on. The practicing bands make so much noise that the meeting has to be canceled. The bands should not be charged under PC 403 since they did not intend to disturb the public meeting.
Charges Similar to Disturbing a Public Meeting in California
The courts in the state of California use a number of charges that are very similar to PC 403. These charges can include:
- California Penal Code Section 302: Disturbing a Religious Meeting
- California Penal Code Section 372 and 373a: Public Nuisance
- California Penal Code Section 415: Disturbing the Peace
Note that public meetings are not generally conducted on private property. However, trespassing charges may apply in certain cases tied to disturbing behavior, especially if an individual is asked to leave an area and refuses to do so.
Repercussions for a Conviction for Disturbing a Public Meeting
California’s court system treats disturbing a public meeting as a misdemeanor level offense. A conviction may lead to up to six months of jail time, along with other penalties that can include:
- Fines and Court Fees
- A Period of Probation
- Community Service Requirements
Possible Legal Defenses for Disturbing a Public Meeting Charges
As you can see, the penalties for a PC 403 conviction can be harsh. A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you handle these accusations. A legal professional can review all of the facts surrounding your case. Depending upon your situation, your lawyer could build a defense by arguing:
You Did Not Intentionally Disturb the Public Meeting
Individuals in California should only be convicted under PC 403 if they act intentionally to interfere with a public meeting. If you accidentally disturbed a meeting, without planning to disturb the individuals at the meeting, you could beat a PC 403 charge.
You Did Not Behave in a Way That was Disturbing
PC 403 charges should only be used to prosecute individuals who act in a way that is disturbing or disruptive. The charge should not be used to prosecute the content you are sharing, only the method with which you shared it. If you visited a public meeting to make a point that was not well-liked but did not do so in a disturbing way, you should not face PC 403 charges.
Defend Yourself from PC 403 Charges with a Legal Professional
California Penal Code Section 403: Disturbing a Public Meeting charges can be challenging to handle on your own. You can take steps to resolve a PC 403 accusation in your favor by contacting the Simmrin Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles. Let us begin offering you the legal advice you need now with a FREE consultation.
You can call us at (310) 997-4688 or fill out our online contact form to learn more about your legal options for dealing with PC 403 charges.