Rescuing a Prisoner - California Penal Code PC 4550

Posted by Raoul Severo | Nov 16, 2020 | 0 Comments

Unless you've been living under the rock, you've probably heard of the infamous Redoine Faid -- a French gangster known best for his spectacular and daring escape from prison. He was rescued by three heavily-armed men with assault rifles and was carried away using a helicopter. This extremely well-planned maneuver they performed, regardless of its unlawfulness, even garnered the former French Justice Minister's commendation and the attention of mainstream media around the world. 

However, while these stories definitely sound fun and thrilling, it should not be glorified or praised. Rescuing a prisoner is both a state and federal crime. California Penal Code PC 4550 explicitly states that anyone who rescues a state prisoner, or assist in the stunt, or even attempt to rescue or assist in the stunt, is guilty of a felony offense. To be more precise, a “prisoner” may include:

  • An inmate of a county jail or county road camp;
  • An inmate of a state prison or prison road camp; or
  • An individual in the lawful custody of a police officer.

Meanwhile, for an act to be considered ‘rescuing a prisoner', the prosecutor must prove that the following elements or conditions are present in the act:

  • The defendant performed some action to commit a certain act of rescuing; and
  • The defendant did so for the purpose of liberating a prisoner of the state.


For a clearer picture of what ‘rescuing a prisoner' would roll out, here are some examples:

  • After learning that his younger brother is being detained in a county road camp, the 30-year-old man crashes his truck to the establishment to free his brother.
  • The leader of a notorious gang finally got caught by the authorities and is taken behind bars in the state prison. The members of the gang then reach out to another group in hopes of recruiting men who are willing to join in and take the leader out of prison. The leader of the other gang refuses to lend some of his men but he did give them some firearms to help them in some way.
  • The mother of an inmate frequently visits her detained son. The prison guards did not suspect anything from them as they assumed the mother simply missed her son. As it turns out, however, she was secretly supplying him with tools that he could use to drill a hole in his prison cell and escape. 
  • A couple decided to shoplift in a local convenience store. They thought they got away with the crime but the owner realized what they had done and called the cops on them. The responding police officer managed to get there on time and confront the duo. With reasonable suspicion, he decided to detain both of them. Thinking about his girlfriend's future, the boyfriend decided to attack the officer so the girl could run away.

Related Offenses

There are a few offenses or crimes that are similar to California Penal Code PC 4550, and these are the following:

  • Lynching (California Penal Code 405)
  • Resisting arrest from an executive officer (California Penal Code PC 69)
  • Evading an officer (California Vehicle Code VC 2800.1)
  • Assault on a police officer (California Penal Code PC 241)
  • Destruction of government property (California Penal Code PC 594)

Penalties for Rescuing a Prisoner in California

As mentioned earlier, rescuing a prisoner under California Penal Code PC 4550 is a felony offense -- the most severe form of a criminal offense. In this law, there are two conditions:

If the rescued inmate was in custody for committing a felony offense which is punishable by death, then the rescuer will face:

  • 2 years;
  • 3 years; or
  • 4 years in county jail

Meanwhile, if the rescued inmate was in custody for other reasons, then the rescuer will face:

  • 16 months;
  • 2 years;
  • 3 years in county jail

Take note that helping a prisoner escape is also a federal crime, which means that you may face additional charges aside from the aforementioned penalties under California Penal Code PC 4550.

Reach Out to a Criminal Defense Lawyer

While these types of charges are a dime a dozen, it certainly does not mean that it's impossible to win against. If you are currently facing a lawsuit for allegedly rescuing a prisoner, we highly suggest that you contact a criminal defense attorney in California. Their knowledge of the law as well as years of professional practice will put you at an advantage. Call us now for a consultation on your case. 

Send us a message! We'll get back to you ASAP

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