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Disturbing A Meeting Laws in Los Angeles

Anyone who has turned on a TV or logged onto social media in recent months has likely seen coverage of public protests and demonstrations. These kinds of demonstrations are especially common during elections or following public turmoil. But is it actually illegal in California to stage a protest or demonstration during a public meeting?

Depending on the circumstances of a particular case, that answer can vary. Check out the rest of this article to learn how to protect yourself if you have been charged with disturbing a meeting in Los Angeles.

Defining the Crime

Public meetings are held for many reasons. For example, the chamber of commerce may hold a meeting to discuss recent city ordinance changes or an environmental group might hold a meeting to discuss climate change. Whatever the case, California law protects the order and civility of these meetings and proscribes legal punishments for those who willfully disrupt them.

Section 403 of the California Penal Code specifically addresses the crime of disturbing a public meeting. In order for someone to be convicted of this offense, the prosecution must prove that:

  • A person intentionally broke the rules or customs of a meeting
  • The defendant was aware or could reasonably be expected to know that their actions were disruptive
  • The actions of the person substantially and unlawfully interfered with the meeting

It’s important to note that the prosecution must prove each of these elements in order to secure a conviction. If they cannot do so, the charges may be dropped and a conviction, as well as punishments, may be avoided.

Examples of Disturbing A Meeting

Jamal and Megan show up to a city council meeting to protest a new city ordinance about the demolition of dilapidated buildings. Jamal and Megan march into the middle of the room when it is not their turn to speak, wave signs and chant loudly. The meeting cannot progress and Jamal and Megan are taken out of the room by police officers.

They may both be charged with disturbing a meeting because they intentionally created a substantial and unlawful disturbance while knowing that their actions would be disruptive.

In another example, several students on a college campus are holding a rally to protest sexual assault incidents that have occurred recently. They are holding the rally next to a building where faculty members are having a budget meeting. The noise from the protest disrupts the meeting and the protestors are asked to move elsewhere.

They comply and move away. They may not necessarily be guilty of disturbing a meeting because they did not know a meeting was taking place nearby, therefore they did not intentionally disrupt it.

It should be noted that it is only the disruptive actions of people that can lead to charges of disturbing a meeting. Protesting is not necessarily a violation of this law as long as the protest does not substantially or unlawfully disturb a meeting.

Legal Penalties

Disturbing a meeting in Los Angeles is a misdemeanor offense that may be punishable by:

  • Up to six months in jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Probation

Legal Defenses

Our law firm can help you fight for your innocence when you have been charged with disturbing a meeting. For example, we may argue that:

  • You had no intention to disturb a meeting
  • Your actions were not substantially disruptive
  • You were mistakenly identified as a participant in a disruption

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