The topics in the Dial-A-Law series provide only general information on legal issues within the province of Alberta. This service is provided by Calgary Legal Guidance funded in part by the Alberta Law Foundation. The purpose is to make you aware of your legal rights and responsibilities. This is not legal advice. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer.
This topic will discuss the general aspects of the criminal offence under the Criminal Code of Canada, Causing a Disturbance.
Conduct that disturbs public peace and order in or near a public place is an offence according to the Criminal Code of Canada. The conduct may be fighting, shouting, singing, using insulting or obscene language, loitering, being drunk, discharging firearms, or impeding, harassing or molesting other persons.
In order to be convicted of causing a disturbance you must be in a public place. A public place is defined as a space that the public has access to. Examples include but are not limited to shopping malls, parking lots, restaurants, streets, parks, bars and office buildings. Someone’s private home is not a public place. If you were shouting at a party in a friend’s home, you could not be convicted of causing a disturbance. However, you may be charged with causing a disturbance if you disturb the peace of persons in a dwelling (house or apartment) home. Thus, if you disturb the peace of those who normally expect quiet by engaging in disorderly conduct in the public hall of an apartment building you may be charged with causing a disturbance. Similarly, if you were shouting in an area outside the yard of a private home on the street, you could face charges. A charge of causing a disturbance may also result if you use obscene language, yell or cause any sort of disturbance when you are stopped by a police officer in the normal course of their duties.
If a police officer gives evidence that your conduct was disturbing someone else, which may be enough evidence to convict you. If you were fighting on the street, and crowd gathers, the officer’s evidence that there was a crowd and their impression of the effect on the fighting in the crowd may be enough to show that you caused a disturbance. The Crown Prosecutor must prove that you actually caused a disturbance by that conduct or activity. It is not necessary to demonstrate that the offender intended to create the disturbance.
The conviction of causing a disturbance is a summary conviction and you will be sentenced to pay a fine up to $2,000 or up to 6 months imprisonment. You should seek legal advice if you have been charged with this offence, as your conviction will result in a criminal record.