breach of the peace

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Breach of the peace is a generic phrase to describe a criminal offense that violates the public peace or order. Since numerous criminal offenses can be perceived as a violation of the public peace, this phrase is usually used to describe the offense of disorderly conduct. Due to the broad interpretation of the phrase, certain states have enacted statutes providing for a “breach of the peace” offense. 

For example:

  • In Nebraska, a person intentionally disturbing the peace and quiet of the community is guilty of a Class III misdemeanor
  • In Wyoming, a person breaches the peace if he or she plays unreasonably loud music, uses threatening language or violent actions, with the reasonable knowledge that such actions will disturb the peace. 
  • Under the Vermont Statutes, a person breaches the peace if he or she makes excessive noise between sunset and sunrise, assaults another person, uses telephonic communication to harass another person, etc. 

[Last updated in June of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]