Causing a Disturbance (Offence)

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Causing a Disturbance
s. 175 of the Crim. Code
Election / Plea
Crown Election Summary
summary proceedings must initiate within 6 months of the offence (786(2))
Jurisdiction Prov. Court only
Types of Release Release by Officer, Officer-in-charge, or Judge
Summary Dispositions
Avail. Disp. Discharge (730)

Suspended Sentence (731(1)(a))
Fine (734)
Fine + Probation (731(1)(b))
Jail (718.3, 787)
Jail + Probation (731(1)(b))
Jail + Fine (734)

Conditional Sentence (742.1)
Minimum None
Maximum six months jail and/or a $5,000 fine
Offence Elements
Sentence Digests


Offences relating to causing a disturbance are found in Part V of the Criminal Code relating to "Sexual Offences, Public Morals and Disorderly Conduct".


Crown Election Defence Election
s. 536(2)
s. 175 [causing a disturbance] Summary Offence(s) N/A No

Offences under s. 175 are straight summary conviction offence. The trial must be held in provincial court.


Offence(s) Attendance Notice
Without Arrest

s. 496
Without Arrest
s. 497
Release By
Arresting Officer
On Attendance Notice
s. 497
Release By
On a Promise to Appear
Undertaking or Recognizance
s. 498
Release By
a Judge or Justice
on a PTA, Undertaking or Recog.

s. 515
Direct to Attend
for Fingerprints, etc.
Identification of Criminals Act

s. 2 ID Crim. Act
s. 175 OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png X Mark Symbol.png

When charged under s. 175, the accused can be given an attendance notice without arrest under s. 496 or a summons. If arrested, he can be released by the arresting officer under s. 497 on a attendance notice or by an officer-in-charge under s. 498 on a promise to appear or recognizance. He can also be released by a justice under s. 515.

Publication Bans
For all offences there is a discretionary general publication ban available on application of the Crown, victim or witness to prohibit the publishing of "any information that could identify the victim or witness" under s. 486.5(1) where it is "necessary" for the "proper administration of justice". Other available publication bans include prohibitions for publishing evidence or other information arising from a bail hearing (s. 517), preliminary inquiry (s. 539) or jury trial (s. 648). There is a mandatory publication ban in all youth prosecutions on information tending to identify young accused under s. 110 of the YCJA or young victims under s. 111 of the YCJA.

Offence Designations
See below in Ancillary Sentencing Orders for details on designations relating to sentencing orders.

Offence Wording

Causing disturbance, indecent exhibition, loitering, etc.
175. (1) Every one who

(a) not being in a dwelling-house, causes a disturbance in or near a public place,
(i) by fighting, screaming, shouting, swearing, singing or using insulting or obscene language,
(ii) by being drunk, or
(iii) by impeding or molesting other persons,
(b) openly exposes or exhibits an indecent exhibition in a public place,
(c) loiters in a public place and in any way obstructs persons who are in that place, or
(d) disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in a public place or who, not being an occupant of a dwelling-house comprised in a particular building or structure, disturbs the peace and quiet of the occupants of a dwelling-house comprised in the building or structure by discharging firearms or by other disorderly conduct in any part of a building or structure to which, at the time of such conduct, the occupants of two or more dwelling-houses comprised in the building or structure have access as of right or by invitation, express or implied,

is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Evidence of peace officer

(2) In the absence of other evidence, or by way of corroboration of other evidence, a summary conviction court may infer from the evidence of a peace officer relating to the conduct of a person or persons, whether ascertained or not, that a disturbance described in paragraph (1)(a) or (d) or an obstruction described in paragraph (1)(c) was caused or occurred.

R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 175; 1997, c. 18, s. 6.


Proof of the Offence

Proving causing a disturbance under s. 175(a) should include:

  1. identity of accused as culprit
  2. date and time of incident
  3. jurisdiction (incl. region and province)
  4. the commission of one of the enumerated acts:
    1. fighting,
    2. screaming,
    3. shouting,
    4. swearing,
    5. singing,
    6. using insulting or obscene language,
    7. being drunk, or
    8. impeding or molesting other persons
  5. the act causes a disturbance
  6. the disturbance is in or near a public place.[1]

Proving causing a disturbance under s. 175(b) should include:

  1. identity of accused as culprit
  2. date and time of incident
  3. jurisdiction (incl. region and province)
  4. the culprit "loiters" in a "public place" and
  5. in any way obstructs persons who are in that place
  1. R v Lohnes, [1992] 1 SCR 167 1992 CanLII 112

Interpretation of the Offence

A disturbance must be more than mere emotional upset or annoyance. The disturbance must be foreseeable as a consequence from the act. [1]

Disturbance can include any "interference with ordinary and customary conduct". It can be something as small as "being distracted from work, but … Must be present and must be extremely manifested."[2]

The actus reus of the offence involving obscene language requires that the obscene language cause an externally manifested disturbance.[3]

Shouting does not include amplification by a device such as a megaphone.[4]

Swearing includes the use of bad, obscene or offensive language.[5]

Disturbance requires mroe than merely an observing crowd or a crowd shouting anti-police sentiment as officers make arrests.[6]

An officer's belief that the accused's language directed at them was vulgar, aggressive and inappropriate alone is insufficient.[7]

Cursing and swearing at the police officer, in certain circumstances, will not amount to an offence of causing a disturbance nor will it amount to a breach of a condition to "keep the peace and be of good behavior".[8]

But if it's under section 175 violates section 2 (B) of the charter protecting freedom of expression, but is saved as a reasonable limit and is valid.[9]

"Loitering" must be an action or inaction without purpose. Simply standing around is not sufficient.[10]

"Public place" is defined in s. 150 as "includ[ing] any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, express or implied;"

"Access" means the "right or opportunity to reach or use or visit".[11]

A place that is only "exposed to the public view" and not accessible is not a "public place".<ref> Clark, supra

  1. R v Lohnes, [1992] 1 SCR 167, 1992 CanLII 112
  2. Lohnes
  3. R v Swinkels, 2010 ONCA 742 (CanLII) at para 10, 29, 32
  4. R v Reed, 1992 CanLII 6005 (BC CA), (1992) 76 CCC 204 (BCCA)
  5. R v Clothier, (1975) 13 NSR 141 (NSCA)(*no CanLII links)
  6. Swinkels at para 28
    Osbourne, 2008 ONCJ 134 (CanLII)
  7. Swinkels at para 28
  8. R v Shea, 2010 NSPC 70 (CanLII)
  9. R v Lawrence, 1992 CanLII 6136 (AB QB), (1992), 74 CCC (3d) 495
  10. R v Munroe, Munroe, 1983 CanLII 1830 (ON CA), [1983] 148 DLR (3d) 166
    R v Hudson, 2007 SKQB 23 (CanLII)
  11. R v Clark, [2005] 1 SCR 6, 2005 SCC 2 (CanLII) at para 13

Participation of Third Parties

See also: Role of the Victim and Third Parties and Testimonial Aids for Young, Disabled or Vulnerable Witnesses

Testimonial Aids
Certain persons who testify are entitled to make application for the use of testimonial aids: Exclusion of Public (s. 486), Use of a Testimonial Screen (s. 486), Access to Support Person While Testifying (s. 486.1), Close Proximity Video-link Testimony (s. 486.2), Self-Represented Cross-Examination Prohibition Order (s. 486.3), and Witness Security Order (s. 486.7).

A witness, victim or complainant may also request publication bans (s. 486.4, 486.5) and/or a Witness Identity Non-disclosure Order (s. 486.31). See also, Publication Bans, above.

On Finding of Guilt
Under s. 738, a judge must inquire from the Crown before sentencing whether "reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victims with an opportunity to indicate whether they are seeking restitution for their losses and damages".

Under s. 722(2), the judge must inquire "[a]s soon as feasible" before sentencing with the Crown "if reasonable steps have been taken to provide the victim with an opportunity to prepare" a victim impact statement. This will include any person "who has suffered, or is alleged to have suffered, physical or emotional harm, property damage or economic loss" as a result of the offence. Individuals representing a community impacted by the crime may file a statement under s. 722.2.

Sentencing Principles and Ranges

See also: Purpose and Principles of Sentencing, Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offender, and Sentencing Factors Relating to the Offence

Maximum Penalties

Offence(s) Crown
Maximum Penalty
s. 175 [causing a disturbance] N/A six months jail and/or a $5,000 fine

Offences under s. 175 are straight summary conviction offences. The maximum penalty is six months jail and/or a $5,000 fine.

Minimum Penalties
These offences have no mandatory minimum penalties.

Available Dispositions

Offence(s) Crown
s. 730

s. 731(1)(a)

s. 731(1)(b)
s. 718.3, 787
Custody and
s. 731(1)(b)
Custody and
s. 734
s. 742.1
s. 175 N/A OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png OK Symbol.png

All dispositions are available.The judge may order a discharge (s. 730), suspended sentence (s. 731(1)(a)), fine (s. 731(1)(b)), custody (s. 718.3, 787), custody with probation (s. 731(1)(b)), custody with a fine (s. 734), or a conditional sentence (s. 742.1).

Consecutive Sentences
There are no statutory requirements that the sentences be consecutive.



see also: Causing a Disturbance (Sentencing Cases)

Ancillary Sentencing Orders

See also: Ancillary Orders

Offence-specific Orders

  • None

General Sentencing Orders

Order Conviction Description
Non-communication order under s. 743.21 any while offender in custody.
Restitution Orders any a discretionary Order on application under s. 738, for things such as the replacement value of the property; the pecuniary damages incurred from harm, expenses fleeing a domestic partner; or certain expenses arising from the commission of an offence under s.402.2 or 403.
Victim Fine Surcharge any A mandatory surcharge under s. 737 of 30% of any fine order imposed, $100 per summary conviction or $200 per indictable conviction. If offence occurs on or after October 23, 2013, the order is discretionary based on ability to pay if before.

General Forfeiture Orders

Forfeiture Conviction Description
Forfeiture of Weapons and Firearms (s. 491) any Where there is finding of guilt for an offence where a "weapon, an imitation firearm, a prohibited device, any ammunition, any prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance was used in the commission of [the] offence and that thing has been seized and detained", or "that a person has committed an offence that involves, or the subject-matter of which is, a firearm, a cross-bow, a prohibited weapon, a restricted weapon, a prohibited device, ammunition, prohibited ammunition or an explosive substance has been seized and detained, that the item be an enumerated weapon or related item be connected to the offence", then there will be a mandatory forfeiture order. However, under s. 491(2), if the lawful owner "was not a party to the offence" and the judge has "no reasonable grounds to believe that the thing would or might be used in the commission of an offence", then it should be returned to the lawful owner.

See Also