Emergency situations require immediate action and quick response. Because of the nature of such cases, it would be best to declare one for extreme conditions. However, maybe due to paranoia or just out of mischievous, if not malicious, behavior, there has been a trend of falsely reporting emergencies. This is highly dangerous because it not only risks the unnecessary escalation of a situation it also heightens the chances of responders not being able to respond to an actual emergency. It benefits nobody.
To discourage the general public from falsely reporting emergencies, California enacted PC 148.3.
California Penal Code PC 148.3
California PC 148.3 is the statute that criminalizes the act of making false emergency reports. It states that:
- Any individual who reports or causes any report to be made to any law enforcement agency that an “emergency” exists, knowing that the information is false, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
- Any individual who reports or causes any report to be made to any law enforcement agency that an “emergency” exists, who knows that the information is false, and who knows or should know that the response to the report is likely to cause death or great bodily injury, and great bodily injury or death is sustained by any person as a result of the false statement, is guilty of a felony.
Under this law, "emergency" is defined as any situation that results in, or could result in, the response of a public official in an authorized emergency vehicle, aircraft, or vessel, any situation that jeopardizes or could jeopardize public safety and results in, or could result in, the evacuation of any area, building, structure, vehicle, or of any other place that any individual may enter, or any situation that results in or could result in activation of the Emergency Alert System according to the Government Code GC 8594. However, any report made or caused to be made by a parent, guardian, or lawful custodian of a child that is based on a good faith belief that the child is missing does not constitute as an "emergency."
Punishments for Violating PC 148.3
Maliciously making a false emergency alarm, especially with the intent of causing a commotion, is a California wobbler. Wobblers are crimes that can be tried and charged on different severity based on the conditions of the case. If the act did not result in death or serious bodily injuries, the defendant could be facing misdemeanor charges. However, if the act happened to cause death or serious bodily injuries, the crime becomes a felony.
- One (1) year incarceration in county jail; and/or
- Paying a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000).
- Two (2) to four (4) years in a California state prison; and/or
- Paying a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000)
As an alternative to jail, convicted offenders can also be subjected to probation if the court sees it fit. Probation is the privilege granted by the court to a person convicted of a criminal offense to remain in the community instead of going to prison/jail – summary probation for misdemeanor offenders while formal probation for felons.
When facing PC 148.3 allegations, here are some of the most common defense that a legal counsel frequently uses:
- There was a mistake of facts;
- There was an actual emergency; or
- There was no report of an "emergency."
Mistake of Fact – In good faith, the defendant had the proper reason to believe that an emergency is taking place. This defense means that, despite falsely calling it an emergency, the defendant had good enough reason to think that an emergency situation is happening.
Actual Emergency – The defendant actually witnessed an emergency; however, due to unforeseen conditions, the situation was already managed before the emergency responders arrived.
No “Emergency” Report – This is a technical defense where the defendant did not actually claim that the reported situation was an emergency. He/she might have contacted emergency responders. However, he/she did not explicitly tell them that it was an emergency.
Making false emergency reports is a serious criminal offense; it can lead to severe consequences. If you know anyone who ever had the misfortune of facing PC 148.3 allegations, it would be in their best interest to immediately hire our California-based criminal defense lawyers. Our team can represent them in court and help lower, if not totally dismiss, the possible charges.
- California Penal Code PC 137 – False Testimony
- California Penal Code PC 148.1 – False Bomb Threats
- California Penal Code PC 148.2 – Interfering a Fire Rescue Operation
- California Penal Code PC 148.4 –False Fire Alarm
- California Penal Code PC 148.5 – False Crime Report
- California Penal Code PC 148.6 – False Allegation Misconduct
- California Penal Code PC 148.9 – Giving the Police False Information
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