What Does “Disturbing the Peace” Mean Under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act?
When you hear the term domestic violence, physical violence most likely comes to your mind. However, what you may fail to realize is that domestic violence encompasses much more than just physical violence.
Domestic violence also includes non-violent behavior such as stalking, threatening, telephoning, including, but not limited to, making annoying phone calls, contacting, either directly or indirectly, by mail or otherwise, coming within a specified distance of, or disturbing the peace of the other party. Fam. Code §6320(a). While most of these types of abuse are easy to recognize, determining what types of behavior constitute “disturbing the peace” is much more difficult.
The courts have defined “disturbing the peace of the other party” as “conduct that destroys the mental or emotional calm of the other party.” In re Marriage of Nadkarni, 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1497 (2009). Courts have also provided direction as to what types of behavior meet the definition through their case law.
For example, in Nadkarni, the court held that a husband’s actions of accessing, reading, and publicly disclosing his wife’s emails without her permission destroyed her mental and emotional calm. In re Marriage of Nadkarni, 173 Cal.App.4th 1483, 1498 (2009).
It has also been held that a party’s peace was disturbed when a restrained party emailed, sent text messages, and showed up unannounced at his ex-girlfriend’s home after his ex-girlfriend made it clear that she wanted to cease all contact with him. Burquet v. Brumbaugh, 223 Cal.App.4th 1140 (2014).
In the most recent case, Evilsizor v. Sweeney, the court held that the husband, Sweeney, destroyed the mental or emotional calm of his wife, Evilsizor, when he downloaded the contents of Evilsizor’s cell phone without her permission and threatened to disclose the personal information, even though there was no physical abuse. Evilsizor v. Sweeney, 237 Cal.App.4th 1416, 1416-1417 (2015).
These cases demonstrate that the Legislature’s inclusion of “disturbing the peace of the other party” in the definition of abuse greatly expands the types of behavior which can be protected against by a Domestic Violence Restraining Order.