Creating or Maintaining a Public Nuisance


There are a number of legal terms that are used loosely on a regular basis and “public nuisance” is one of them. A nuisance in law relates to what the general public considers a “bother” for all, as opposed to an individual’s personal preferences. It relates to the activities or the use of a person’s own private property, which often results in a shock to the offenders, who may believe their constitutional right to enjoy their property is absolute.

A nuisance can be pursued both as a civil matter and as a crime. While the civil matter will have monetary consequences, if you are charged with creating or maintaining a public nuisance, you could face both financial as well as penal consequences. It is, therefore, important that you seek the services of a San Diego public nuisance defense lawyer.

What Do Public Nuisance Charges Mean?

There are a series of acts or oversights that can lead to you being charged with creating or maintaining a public nuisance. California Penal Code prohibits the following actions:

  • To maintain or commit a public nuisance;
  • Failure to remove a public nuisance; or
  • Maintain or allow a public nuisance to remain on your property.

But what is a public nuisance? Its definition is the critical element of the crime and what determines whether the matter is slated for criminal or civil court. A public nuisance is anything that can be characterized as detrimental to health, indecent, offensive, or an obstruction to the use of property. The supposed nuisance should also interfere with the right to enjoy life and property by a community, neighborhood, or a number of individuals. It is this communal interference that makes the nuisance public and as a result makes it a crime.

The above definition was in relation to the use of private property; however, criminal public nuisance can also include obstructing a public way, such as a street or highway. Whether the public nuisance charge results from the use of your private property or from some interference with a public passageway, the offense is a misdemeanor in California.

Will I Go To Jail?

It seems unthinkable that an individual could go to jail because they choose to use their property in a way that others do not like. However, the reality is that maintaining or creating a public nuisance is a misdemeanor with a maximum jail term of 6 months if you are found guilty.

Since the activities that can be labeled a criminal public nuisance can vary greatly from a relatively minor inconvenience to nuisances involving obstructing public roadways, you can appreciate that imposing the maximum or any jail time will vary based on the facts of each case. The judge at sentencing may also take into consideration the character of the defendant and his or her criminal history. Having a San Diego public nuisance defense lawyer to mitigate on your behalf, if you plead guilty will be very beneficial to getting the lowest possible penalty.

The court will also have the discretion to impose probation in cases where the judge is not willing to impose a jail sentence. In many instances, a fine of upwards of $1200 can also be imposed.

What Is My Defense?

Often times, a thin line is all that separates a criminal nuisance and an incident best suited for civil litigation. This blurry distinction is generally the first thing a lawyer will address in a pre-trial motion and if successful, your charges could be dismissed.

When it is clear the alleged action or property usage is a criminal public nuisance, there are a number of defenses available to you. In addition to the common legal defenses, your lawyer may put forward following arguments:

  • You did not have a genuine ability to stop the nuisance.
  • You are not guilty of allowing a public nuisance on your property if you did not receive the required notice in writing from the relevant authorities.

Consult A San Diego Public Nuisance Defense Lawyer

In every criminal matter, you are innocent until proven guilty. When you hire an attorney, your chances of beating the charges are better. At McElfresh Law, we offer a comprehensive suite of criminal defense litigation services. Over the years, we have been providing high-quality legal representation and advocacy to our clients and in particular to those facing public nuisance charges. We believe that our legal team is trained and professionally equipped to be your courtroom advocate.

Call us today at (858) 756-7107 and let us be your San Diego public nuisance defense lawyer. Let us help you avoid the penalties so you can return to your life as quickly as possible.