Wearing masks and costumes are not necessarily illegal. There are even some customs and traditions rooted in the very idea of wearing it. Costumes and masks represent cultures or characters, depending on the purpose and sentiments of the users. However, some people use these things to commit criminal offenses. Comical as it may seem, criminals use masks while doing their misdeeds to hide their identity. But that is not where the usage of disguises in illegal activities ends. Some people wear them intending to fool law enforcers to avoid legal pursuits. To discourage people from ever committing this offense, the state of California enacted Penal Code 185 to criminalize the act of wearing a disguise to evade police.
California Penal Code PC 185
California Penal Code Section One Hundred and Eighty-five stated that shall be unlawful for any person to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) for the purpose of:
- Evading or escaping discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense.
- Concealment, flight, or escape, when charged with, arrested for, or convicted of, any public offense.
Any person violating any of the provisions of this section shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.
A disguise is any material that is used to completely or partially conceal one's features or identity like:
- Costumes (anything that hides the features of the person by taking the features of other people and/or things)
- Fake hairs (mustaches, wigs, or whiskers)
- Masks (anything that covers the face of the person made from pieces of clothing, fabric, plastic, etc.) or
- Personalized Disguises
Under PC 185, it is unlawful to use anything resembling the things mentioned above to avoid law enforcement or legal procedures.
Evasion refers to the act of attempting or actually managing to avoid or escape something. In the context of PC 185, it is the criminal offense of using any form of disguises to elude law enforcement after being lawfully obligated to participate in legal activities like interrogations, questionings, searches, or arrests.
Examples of PC 185 violations
While going through the stalls in a department store, the mall security personnel caught Austin shoplifting. They chased him, but he immediately changed his clothes and wore a wig to escape the pursuit.
During an attempted break-in, a neighbor saw Bradley trying to break the padlocks. The cops responded with urgency, but they still lost him because he wore a costume to hide from the law enforcers.
While being chased by law enforcers for robbing a jewelry store, Charles wore a synthetic costume to alter his appearance in an attempt to lose the police intentionally.
Penalties for violating PC 185
Evading or attempting to evade police forces to avoid facing legal obligations is a misdemeanor offense under PC 185. 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 six (6) months in county jail, or
- A fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.
However, if the judge sees it fit, he/she can grant the convict with probational privileges. Probation is a type of legal sentence that can be used to substitute for time in prison. He/she will serve the remainder of his/her sentence outside of jail but still under the watchful eyes of the law.
Wearing a disguise with an intent to escape from any law enforcement obligation is a serious criminal offense. Fortunately for the defendant, some conditions can be used in their favor. Some of these are:
- The defendant, upon the act of being chased by law enforcement, did not wear any disguise.
- The defendant did not wear any disguise with the intention of avoiding the police.
- The defendant did not commit any criminal offense.
Criminal violations like PC 185 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.
- California Penal Code PC 148 – Resisting or attempting to resist arrest
- California Penal Code PC 148.9 – Providing false information to a law enforcer
- California Penal Code PC 530.5 – Identity theft
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