An Epidemic of Questionable Arrests by School Police

According to a report by the Center for Public Integrity, there have been tens of thousands of questionable juvenile arrests that have occurred throughout San Bernardino County in the last decade. The arrests were so numerous in the Inland Empire that they surpassed arrests of juveniles by municipal police in some of California’s biggest cities such as Sacramento, Oakland, and San Francisco. Specifically, the San Bernardino City Unified School District has its own police department staffed with 28 cops, eight support staff, and more than 50 campus security officers trained in handcuffing and baton use.

Between 2005 and 2014, the department made over 30,000 arrests of school children, 10 times the national rate of juvenile arrests. While the area has a reputation for high levels of youth-gang crime, only 9% of those arrests were for alleged felonies. Instead, the vast majority of arrests were for minors violating city ordinances such as graffiti violations or daytime curfews, and 9,900 were for allegations of disturbing the peace. This is about a third of all the arrests made.

Disturbing the peace is a frequent catch-all that is used when police justify an arrest as ‘necessary for the public safety.’ This covers behavior ranging from disruptive, loud behavior, to school fights. According to the report, the San Bernardino area is also home to more some of the most academically vulnerable demographics in the state – low income, black, and Latino minorities, making this trend extremely disturbing.

California Disturbing the Peace Laws

Under California Penal Code § 415, a person can commit the crime of “disturbing the peace” by:

  • Fighting or trying to challenge/start a fight;
  • Disturbing someone else by loud and unreasonable noise;
  • Using offensive words in public.

Depending on the circumstances, a charge of disturbing the peace can be a misdemeanor or a less serious infraction, which is not criminal. In many cases, disturbing the peace is just a plea-bargaining tool to request, as an alternative to more serious charges, such as criminal threats or lewd conduct.

Disturbing the peace is a vague crime, and sometimes a conviction can be avoided if you can prove you lacked the criminal intent, or were falsely accused. Additionally, constitutionally protected behavior such as peaceful protests may not be considered disturbing the peace.

San Diego Disturbing the Peace and Juvenile Rights Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony cases, along with juvenile crimes and youth issues. A lawyer can ask for alternative sentencing, community service, or a diversion program for minors, especially if they have no prior record. We will challenge the evidence in the instance we find police misconduct. If you or your child has been charged with a crime, it is recommended you contact a lawyer.