Pet owners in California are required to care for their animals and to keep them under control. This is especially important if they own an animal that could endanger others. Failure to reasonably monitor the acts of a pet could even lead to criminal charges under California Penal Code Section 399: Failing to Control a Dangerous Dog/Animal.
The Simmrin Law Group can help you understand different aspects of PC 399 charges in California. Let us go over the definition of this charge, the effects of a conviction, and some common legal defenses for failing to control a dangerous dog or animal charges.
PC 399: The Legal Definition
Individuals in California can be charged with failing to control a dangerous dog or animal if they:
- Own – or Have Custody of – a Dangerous Animal
- While Being Aware That the Animal Was Dangerous AND
- Purposefully and Willingly Let the Animal Run Free
However, merely letting the dangerous animal run free will not be enough to bring about PC 399 charges. The court system in California should only bring charges under PC 399 if, while running free, the dangerous animal:
- Causes Another Person Serious Bodily Injury
- Kills Another Person
If all of these elements are present, an individual could face charges for failing to control a dangerous dog or animal.
The Definition of a Dangerous Animal in California
Not all animals in California are automatically considered dangerous. In fact, domesticated animals – like cats, dogs, or livestock – are only considered dangerous on an individual basis. For example, a dog could be considered dangerous if it acts viciously or previously hurt someone, but not all dogs are classified as dangerous.
However, all wild animals are automatically considered dangerous in California. There is not a firm definition for “wild” animals in the legal system in California. That said, all of the following animals have previously been treated as “wild” in the courts:
- Many Big Cats
These animals – and other “wild” animals – are always considered dangerous and must be controlled at all times by their owners.
Results of a PC 399 Conviction
The exact penalties for a PC 399 conviction may depend upon whether the victim is severely injured or killed. If the victim is seriously hurt, an individual may face misdemeanor or felony charges in California. Dangerous animal attacks that lead to a death are always prosecuted as a felony. These charges may lead to:
Penalties for a Misdemeanor PC 399 Conviction:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to Six Months
Penalties for a Felony PC 399 Conviction:
- Fines: Up to $10,000
- Jail Time: Up to Three Years
Charges That Are Similar to PC 399 in California
There are a number of charges that resemble PC 399 in California. Some of these charges deal specifically with animals, including:
- California Penal Code Section 399.5: Negligent Control of an Attack Dog
- California Penal Code Section 597.5: Dogfighting
Other charges are used to prosecute acts that result in injury or death for other people. Here are some common examples of these charges:
- California Penal Code Section 192(a): Voluntary Manslaughter
- California Penal Code Section 192(b): Involuntary Manslaughter
- California Penal Code Section 187: Murder
- California Penal Code Section 242: Battery
Of these charges, murder is considered the most severe act. In fact, it is one of the harshest criminal charges anyone can face in the state of California.
Legal Defenses for PC 399 Accusations in California
You can focus on building a defense for charges of failing to control a dangerous dog or animal right now by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. Your lawyer can review all of your legal options. Based on your situation, a legal professional may be able to show that:
You Were Unaware the Animal Was Dangerous
You must be aware that your domesticated animal was dangerous to face PC 399 charges. For example, if you had no reason to believe that your pet would harm another person, you could be able to avoid a conviction under PC 399.
Your Animal Wasn’t Actually Dangerous
Animals sometimes harm or kill people accidentally or to protect themselves. In these cases, the animal itself would not have previously been considered dangerous. You should not be charged under PC 399 if an animal attack involving a non-dangerous animal occurred.
The Animal Didn’t Belong to You
You should only be charged under PC 399 if your animal harms or kills another person. You should not be facing charges if the animal involved in the attack was not yours and you were not responsible for handling it.
Speak with a Criminal Defense Lawyer about PC 399 Charges
California Penal Code Section 399: Failing to Control a Dangerous Dog/Animal charges can lead to serious consequences. Take steps to protect your future now by contacting a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer. You can reach the professionals at the Simmrin Law Group by completing our online contact form or calling (310) 997-4688.
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