When someone calls and reports an emergency, first responders and other relevant agencies will be sent to deal with the situation. When somebody decides to intentionally report a crisis that does not exist, they are wasting taxpayer's money and tying up services that could be needed elsewhere.
Thus, deliberately reporting a false emergency is a crime under California Penal Code 148.3 PC. This statute is a misdemeanor offense and can be charged when somebody makes a false report of an emergency resulting in a response from an emergency vehicle, an amber alert, or evacuation. If convicted, you face up to one year in county jail and will carry a fine of up to $1,000.
Penal Code 148.3 PC falsely reporting an emergency is defined as “Anybody who reports, or causes a report to be made, to a city, county, or state department, district, agency, division, commission, or board, that an emergency exists, knowing that the report is false, is guilty of a misdemeanor crime.”
PC 148.3, subsection (b) states that anybody who falsely reports an emergency while knowing, or should have reasonably known, that the response to the false report would likely cause a great bodily injury or death is guilty of a felony crime punishable by a fine up to $10,000 and jail time.
In this article by our Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys, we will take a closer look at the statute.
What Exactly Does It Mean to Make a False Emergency Report?
Under the legal definition, an "emergency" means any scenario that could result in the following responses:
- Dispatch of any emergency vehicle,
- evacuation of a building or geographic area,
- An "AMBER Alert"; or
- Activation of the emergency alert system.
As noted above, Penal Code 148.3 PC prohibits falsely reporting any "emergency" to any department, agency, or division at any level of government in the city, county, or state. A few examples include:
- Example 1: Mary calls 911 and falsely states that her boyfriend is hitting her and she is unable to get away from him. However, later its discovered she was deliberately trying to get him arrested for domestic battery because she was bitter over their recent breakup.
- Example 2: As a prank, Joe tells a police officer who was walking by that his friend is crazy and has and armed with an illegal assault weapon. This false report initiates an emergency response, and police evacuate an entire block where they were told he was hanging around
What Are the Penalties for PC 148.3 Conviction?
In most cases, Penal Code 148.3 falsely reporting an emergency is a misdemeanor crime that carries the following penalties if convicted:
- A fine of up to $1,000.
- Up to one year in county jail,
- Reimbursement for the cost of the emergency response.
As noted above, If the false emergency report results in somebody sustaining a serious bodily injury or death, the felony penalties will be increased to a fine of up to $10,000 and up to three years in state prison.
A great bodily injury is determined by examining the severity of the injury, such as whether the injury required immediate medical care and the level of physical pain.
What Are Some Related Offenses?
Falsely reporting a fire under Penal Code 148.4 PC, such as when someone calls 911 and intentionally falsely claims there is a fire at a specific location. This law also applies when someone falsely triggers a fire alarm.
Bomb threats under Penal Code 148.1 PC, such as when someone leaves an alleged suspicious-looking package under a bus bench and then calls 911 and reports a bomb threat.
False report of a crime under Penal Code 148.5 PC occurs when someone deliberately lies to law enforcement about being a crime victim when they know the offense never happened.
False identification to a peace officer under Penal Code 148.9 PC occurs when somebody knowingly provides false identification or false information to a police officer either verbally or by giving them fake identification.
What Are the Possible Legal Defenses?
For a conviction to be secured, a prosecutor must prove that a false report was made and that there was full knowledge that the information was incorrect.
Thus, the best legal defense to a false report of an emergency allegation will center around the specific details of your case. Still, as discussed below, several common defense strategies could be used on your behalf.
Lack of intent. Perhaps you did not knowingly trigger an emergency response. For example, maybe you made a joke to someone that your friend was crazy and might hurt somebody, but you didn't expect them to call the police.
Mistake of fact. Recall that it must be proven that you knowingly reported a false emergency. Perhaps you had a valid reason to believe there was an actual emergency when you called 911, and there was no intent to make a false claim.
There was an actual emergency. Perhaps a valid emergency existed when you called 911, but it was resolved before any first-responder arrived.
The most common argument for charges of Penal Code 148.3 false report of an emergency is that there was no intent. Put simply, maybe you never had the intent to commit the crime. If true, you might be able to avoid a conviction.
Maybe you genuinely believed there was an actual emergency, but it was found incorrect soon after you reported it. In other words, you made an honest error, and there was no intentional attempt to misreport an emergency.
Perhaps we can negotiate for lesser charges or even a case dismissal. Maybe prefiling negotiations could persuade the prosecutor not to file charges in the first place.
Eisner Gorin LLP is located in Los Angeles, California, and we provide legal representation across Southern California. We must first review all your situation details to determine an appropriate strategy. Contact us for an initial case review by phone or use the contact form.