California Penal Code 148.4 PC prohibits one to make a false report of a fire alarm or other fire protection equipment.
Below our criminal defense lawyers explain the elements of this offense.
How Does the Prosecutor Prove Someone Made a False Fire Alarm?
To prove that the defendant is guilty of this offense, the prosecutor has to prove the following facts or elements1:
Jack, a janitor at a high school, accidently pulled the fire alarm resulting in several fire trucks arriving on the scene. He cannot be charged with the offense because he caused the alarm to sound as an accident.
When Imani went to visit his grandfather at the hospital, he and his cousin started daring each other to pull the fire alarm in the waiting room just to see how quickly the authorities would arrive. Imani then went on to trigger the alarm and several fire trucks arrived to the scene within minutes.
Imani and his cousin can likely be charged with the offense because they intentionally caused the alarm to sound, doing so with the knowledge that there was no fire.
They also did so willfully and maliciously because although they knew that they were falsely reporting a fire and that the authorities would arrive, they did so anyway.
Who Can Be Charged With Making A False Fire Alarm?
Any person who tampers with or breaks a fire alarm or fire protection equipment, triggers a false fire alarm, or makes a false report of a fire AND does so knowingly and maliciously can be prosecuted under California Penal Code 148.4 PC.
What Are the Penalties For Penal Code 148.4 Making a False Fire Alarm?
Penal code 148.4 is a misdemeanor for which the penalties may include
- up to 1 year in a county jail
- fine, not exceeding $1,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.
However, if a violation of this penal code section causes someone great bodily injury or death, the offense becomes a felony for which a judge can issue a sentence of up to:
- 3 years in California state prison or a
- Fine of not less than $500
- Not more than $10,000,
- Or by both fine and imprisonment.
Example Of A Situation With A Felony Falsely Triggering An Alarm:
While Chris was fleeing from the police, he ran into a movie theater and intentionally triggered the fire alarm to make it more difficult for the police to catch him inside the movie theater.
When the theater staff started evacuating the patrons, several patrons were injured due to others trying to get out quickly.
Because Chris falsely triggered the alarm and as a result, some patrons were injured, Chris can be charged with a felony.
False Report of an Emergency | Penal Code 148.3
Next Steps If You Need Help
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- Elements. Pen. Code, § 148.4. [↩]
- Willfully and maliciously means that the person has knowledge that he/she is falsely activating a fire alarm or is falsely reporting a fire but does so anyway. [↩]
- Making a false report of a fire includes any of the following actions: tampering with, molesting, injuring, or breaking any fire protection equipment, fire protection installation, fire alarm apparatus, wire, or signal; sending, giving, transmitting, or sounding any false alarm of fire, by means of any fire alarm system or signal or by any other means or methods; sending giving, transmitting, or sounding any false alarm of fire, by means of any fire alarm system or signal, or by any other means or methods. Pen. Code, § 148.4. [↩]