What is the California Law on Reporting False Emergencies?

California Penal Code 148.3 addresses making a false report of an emergency. The penalties for this crime depend on the response to the report.  If the response to the report could likely cause death or great bodily harm, you could be convicted of a felony and spend time in prison along with owing steep fines.

California Penal Code 148.3

148.3.  (a) Any individual who reports, or causes any report to be made, to any city, county, city and 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 and upon conviction thereof shall be punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year, or by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

(b) Any individual who reports, or causes any report to be made, to any city, county, city and county, or state department, district, agency, division, commission, or board, that an “emergency” exists, and who knows that the report is false, and who knows or should know that the response to the report is likely to cause death or great bodily injury, and great bodily injury or death is sustained by any person as a result of the false report, is guilty of a felony and upon conviction thereof shall be punishable by imprisonment pursuant to subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by a fine of not more than ten thousand dollars ($10,000), or by both that imprisonment and fine.

How does the law define “Emergency”?

Penal Code 148.3 (c) defines an “emergency” as any condition that might (or does) trigger the response of an emergency vehicle, aircraft or vessel, the evacuation of any area, building, structure, vehicle, or of any other place, or an Amber Alert (The AMBER Alert System began in 1996 when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was created as a legacy to 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who was kidnaped while riding her bicycle in Arlington, TX, and then brutally murdered. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER plans as the idea was adopted across the nation).

148.3. (c) “Emergency” as used in this section means any condition that results in, or could result in, the response of a public official in an authorized emergency vehicle, aircraft, or vessel, any condition that jeopardizes or could jeopardize public safety and results in, or could result in, the evacuation of any area, building, structure, vehicle, or of any other place that any individual may enter, or any situation that results in or could result in activation of the Emergency Alert System pursuant to Section 8594 of the Government Code. An activation or possible activation of the Emergency Alert System pursuant to Section 8594 of the Government Code shall not constitute an “emergency” for purposes of this section if it occurs as the result of a report made or caused to be made by a parent, guardian, or lawful custodian of a child that is based on a good faith belief that the child is missing.

Prank calls, or “swatting”  to 911 are considered a violation of this code.  Swatting is an attempt to trick any emergency service into dispatching any emergency response based on a false reporting of an incident. Incidents may range from large to small, from an entire SWAT  (thus the term “swatting) unit to a fabricated police report meant to discredit an individual as a prank or personal vendetta. Recently there has been a rash of “swatting’ hoax reports of violence or robbery at the homes of movie stars. Last week, The L.A. Times reported that  a bill  was announced by state Sen. Ted Lieu that  would permit longer sentences for those convicted of making false police reports. A similar measure was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

If you’ve been charged with making a false report of an emergency, you may have had a good faith belief that there was a genuine emergency.  Or it may have been someone else who made the false alarm and you got blamed.  Call the Law Office of Elliott N. Kanter at 619-330-5881 for a free consultation. When your freedom is on the line, you need a skillful San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney.  Mr. Kanter has over 30 years experience helping people just like you. If you prefer, submit our secure online case review for a prompt reply.

This article is for educational and marketing purposes only.  It does not create an attorney-client relationship.