For many, crimes generally have a specific victim. However, there are some crimes where the “victim” is not a definite person, but the actions of the offenders affect the public or a group of individuals. Such illegal behavior can amount to a public crime and can include offenses like rioting, disturbing a meeting, unlawful assembly, disturbing the peace, and creating or maintaining a public nuisance. A San Diego public crimes lawyer can help.
To be charged with any of these offenses can be a troubling time for many. Therefore, it is important that if you are facing a crime against the public charge that you seek the services of a skilled San Diego public crimes lawyer.
Public Crimes Explained
The public nature of the “victim” is one aspect that makes public crimes unique. Another feature of this category of offenses is that they sometimes contradict fundamental constitutional rights. For example, the right to enjoy one’s property is limited by the crime of creating or maintaining a nuisance and the right to free speech is put in check by virtue of the offense of disturbing a meeting.
Offenses, like disturbing the peace or creating a public nuisance, are loosely used by many, without understanding the legal meaning. In many cases, a crime against the public is characterized by a behavior that becomes illegal due to the public element associated with the crime and how that behavior seeks to disrupt or interfere with others.
- Rioting – There is a place in society for lawful demonstration; however, when two or more individuals come together under the banner of force and violence to disrupt the public peace, this is known as rioting. Covering a number of related offenses, the law relating to rioting includes participating in and inciting a riot.
- Disturbing a Meeting – Simply disturbing a meeting in the regular meaning of the words is not illegal. To make it a crime, you must be acting in a willful manner to disrupt or break up a meeting without the lawful authority to do so. The manner of the behavior is what makes the disruption a crime.
- Unlawful Assembly – This is getting together with others with the intention of carrying out an unlawful act. The action will still be unlawful assembly if the act is legal but it is carried out in a violent or boisterous way.
- Disturbing the Peace – Fighting in public, using loud and unreasonable noise, or uttering offensive words that will disturb the peace of the general public are all behaviors prohibited by California Penal Code.
- Creating or Maintaining a Public Nuisance – A nuisance that is detrimental to health, indecent, offensive, an obstruction to the use of property, and which interferes with the enjoyment of property of a group of individuals is a criminal public nuisance. This crime is also concerned with obstructing the public way.
All of these crimes are misdemeanors under California law and if you are found guilty in a court of law, they carry similar penalties.
Public Crime Penalties
The penalties of a crime reflect the seriousness of the charge within the criminal justice system and take into account the circumstances surrounding the offense. Obviously, when someone is charged with a crime, the possibility of going to jail will weigh heavily on the mind. If you are facing any criminal charges, knowing what the potential consequences will be if you plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial is very important in how you proceed.
The public crimes mentioned in this article are misdemeanors and while in some cases their penalties are similar, some are more serious than others. The following are the maximum jail time for each offense:
- Rioting – The most serious of them all, if you are found guilty of participating in or inciting a riot, the maximum jail time that you can face is one-year.
- Disturbing a meeting – Disturbing a meeting may seem pretty trivial to you at the time, but if it amounts to a criminal offense and you are found guilty, you may face up to six months in jail.
- Unlawful assembly – Like most other misdemeanor charges, unlawful assembly carries a maximum jail time penalty of six months.
- Disturbing the peace – This public crime carries the least jail penalty, partly because it is often time pursued as a simple infraction, but if found guilty you could face up to 90 days in a county jail.
- Creating or maintaining a public nuisance – A judge at sentencing could impose a maximum jail time penalty of six months.
Not all cases will necessitate the maximum penalty and the court will consider the particular facts of your case and your criminal history to determine the amount of jail time, if any, to be imposed.
A court will not always pursue custodial sentencing. Each crime has a penalty of a misdemeanor fine, which can be imposed as the only punishment or in combination with others. Additionally, a judge can opt for probation over jail time. Having a defense lawyer, who will be able to mitigate on your behalf will be critical in the imposition of sentencing.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
The nature of public crimes is that; they are generally riddled with possibilities for being falsely accused. In many instances, emotions are high both from your accusers and society in general. Between navigating the complex criminal systems, understanding the various laws and having to go up against multiple eyewitnesses, proving your innocence can be a difficult task if you are unrepresented.
As an individual charged and facing a public crime, you are considered innocent until proven guilty. It is up to the prosecution to prove that the elements of the crime have been committed. The criminal justice system has at its disposal all the human and investigative resources to prove your guilt. Your best chance of going up against this system is to hire a defense lawyer in San Diego with the years of training and experience handling public crimes cases, who will be able to do the following:
- Get charges dismissed – Your arrest is based on information in the possession of the police and which gives them a reason to believe that a crime was committed. But in many public crime cases, especially rioting and unlawful assembly, you may be an innocent bystander. Additionally, new evidence may come into the possession of the prosecution, an essential element of the crime can’t be proven, or pre-trial investigation reveals breaches and excessive powers, can all lead to charges being dismissed. A defense lawyer in San Diego will be able to have the necessary discussions with the prosecutor or file pre-trial motions and if successful, you will walk away without a conviction.
- Get charges reduced – In some cases, all the elements or a specific element of the crime is not present. While the absence of such elements will not always warrant an outright dismissal, it can lead to reduced charges.
- Prepare a sound defense – If your public crime case must go to trial, there are a number of defenses available to you. Each crime carries various elements which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before you can be convicted. A defense that shows that at least one of those elements was not proven is sufficient to secure your innocence. Additionally, the defense of mistaken identity can be used especially in cases where are a number of participants; as it is with many public crimes. Your lawyer will also have available the defense of false accusation, essentially proving that the victim(s) had malicious intentions.
- Sentence mitigation – If there are no legal defenses available to you and you decide to plead guilty, now more than ever you will need a lawyer. Not all public crimes cases will automatically lead to jail time. The judge will hear arguments from the prosecutor, who will most likely seek the maximum in relation to suggested penalties to be imposed. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney who can put forward arguments on your behalf to mitigate sentencing will be very advantageous to your case.
The legal system is not designed to encourage individuals charged with a crime to be unrepresented. There is a reason why every step of the way you are asked if you have an attorney and whether you need one appointed. It is important to always have legal representation whether you are charged with murder or just disturbance of the peace.
Call a San Diego Public Crimes Lawyer
At McElfresh Law, we have distinguished ourselves as skilled criminal defense advocates. Our years of training and experience in the area of criminal litigation has equipped us with the necessary resources and in-depth knowledge, critical to researching, investigating, and preparing your case. Our law firm is committed to providing clients with high-quality legal representation for individuals charged with any crime against the public. You can rely on our track record of excellence and when you choose us as your defense lawyer in San Diego, we will diligently work to protect your rights and secure your freedom.