breach of the peace

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breach of the peace (plural breaches of the peace)

  1. (law) The legal offense of engaging in public behavior which is violent, rowdy, or disruptive.
    • 1823, James Fenimore Cooper, chapter 32, in The Pioneers:
      [T]he sheriff turned his eyes again. . . . "What have we here?" he cried; "two men boxing! Has there been a breach of the peace?"
    • 1938 May 16, "Jamaica: Riot Act," Time:
      Short of high treason, the gravest form of breach of the peace known to British law is riot.
    • 2003 Oct. 24, Aban Contractor et al., "Why a world leader used the servants' entrance," Sydney Morning Herald (retrieved 6 Oct 2012):
      Four men and a woman were arrested and charged with breaches of the peace after a series of scuffles in which protesters and police received minor injuries.
  2. (by extension) Any public disturbance or disorderly behavior.
    • 1898, George Gissing, chapter 20, in The Town Traveller:
      Polly's suspicions were louder, her temper became uncertain; once or twice she forgot herself and used language calculated to cause a breach of the peace.
    • 1912, Irving Bacheller, chapter 14, in ‘Charge It’:
      Then, suddenly, the singing fell upon us and broke the silence into ruins. It was in the nature of a breach of the peace.
    • 2009 April 2, Jasper Gerard, "Bucolic Britain is stirring," The Telegraph (UK) (retrieved 6 Oct 2012):
      My rural ride continues, and on a gloriously balmy day in Worth Matravers the only obvious sign of a breach of the peace is a flock of geese lolloping out of the pond, on to the lane.


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