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Obstructing Open Business Establishments – California Penal Code PC 602.1

Posted by Raoul Severo | Dec 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

Obstruction

Obstructing or interfering with any publicly opened business establishment is a criminal offense. To discourage people from doing so and protect these establishments, the state of California enacted Penal Code PC 602.1 to criminalize such acts.

California Penal Code PC 602.1

Section A

Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business or occupation carried on by the owner or agent of a business establishment open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or their customers, and who refuses to leave the premises of the business establishment after being requested to leave by the owner or the owner's agent, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the owner or owner's agent, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

Section B

Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business, or those persons there to transact business with the public agency, and who refuses to leave the premises of the public agency after being requested to leave by the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

Section C

Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business carried on by the employees of a public agency open to the public, by knowingly making a material misrepresentation of the law to those persons there to transact business with the public agency, and who refuses to leave the premises of the public agency after being requested to leave by the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the office manager or a supervisor of the public agency, is guilty of an infraction, punishable by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400).

Exemptions

The following are legally exempted from PC 602.1 violations especially when doing the obstruction under lawful orders:

  • Any person engaged in lawful labor union activities that are permitted to be carried out on the property by state or federal law.
  • Any person on the premises who is engaging in activities protected by the California Constitution or the United States Constitution.

Examples of PC 602.1 Violations

  • Animal rights activists block the entrance of a restaurant who serves Foi Gras.
  • A book club harasses a local bookstore because they ran out of stock.
  • People are barricading a coffee shop to discourage people from entering.

Punishments for Violating PC 602.1

Obstructing publicly open business establishments is a misdemeanor offense under PC 602.1. A misdemeanor is the severity level of a criminal act more serious in comparison to an infraction but less severe than felonies. This crime is punishable by:

  • Incarceration or jail time for up to ninety (90) days in county jail, or
  • A fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or both.

However, 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.

Legal Defense

When facing PC 602.1 allegations, here are some of the most commonly used defenses:

  • The defendant had no intent to obstruct entry from the establishment;
  • The defendant was part of a peaceful protest; and/or
  • The defendant was not asked to leave the premises.

No intent – The defendant did not intentionally interfere or obstruct the establishment. To be guilty of PC 602.1 violations, the accused must deliberately and maliciously interfere with the institution's entry and other businesses.

Peaceful protest – The defendant's action was a part of a legally recognized peace protest. Under the United States first amendment, the accused is constitutionally rightful to exercise freedom of speech and the freedom to assemble and petition.

No request to leave – The defendant was not asked to leave the establishment, nor was he/she told to stop what he/she is doing. To be guilty of violating PC 602.1, the accused must resist the lawful order to disperse or leave.

Legal Support

Criminal violations like PC 602.1 allegations are a hassle to deal with. They take up too much time and effort, that is if the defendant won. But, if he/she loses, that will mean he/she will be serving jail time or paying a costly fine. To avoid facing such legal altercations, it would be in your best interest to consult with our team of top-notch California lawyers. They have the experience, with credentials to back that claim, in making sure that the law serves its intended purpose.

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