People have a natural tendency towards curiosity. Many people want to find out what is going on, especially in emergency situations. However, this kind of attention can actually prevent emergency responders from correctly handling an emergency.
For this reason, the state of California legally restricts the actions onlookers can take during an emergency. People who violate these restrictions could be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 402(a): Sightseeing at the Scene of an Emergency.
You can get help understanding exactly how PC 402(a) charges can be applied right here. Let the professionals at the Simmrin Law Group help you review the penalties for a PC 402(a) conviction and some possible legal defenses.
Elements of a PC 402(a) Charge in California
Merely viewing the scene of an accident – perhaps as you drive by in your vehicle – is not enough to qualify as sightseeing at the scene of an emergency. PC 402(a) charges should only be used if an individual:
- Goes to or Stops at an Emergency Scene
- In Order to View the Scene or the Activities of Emergency Responders
- During the Time When Vehicles and Responders Are Traveling to and from the Scene
- Thereby Impeding Emergency Responders from Performing Their Duties
Note that individuals who are at the scene of an emergency to carry out their own duties should not face charges under PC 402(a).
Defining Emergency Responders
Many different people may be considered emergency responders in the state of California. All of the following individuals can meet this classification:
- Police Officers
- Emergency Medical Personnel
- Military Personnel
Defining an Emergency
The legal system in California has set forth a definition for emergencies. Generally, an emergency is any situation that involves any of the following:
- Injuries to People
- Damage to Property
- Danger to People or Property
Emergency situations can be caused by many different hazards, including but not limited to:
- Fires or Explosions
- Airplane Crashes, Railroad Accidents, or Traffic Accidents
- Flooding or Windstorm Damage
- Power Plant Accidents
- Chemical or Biological Spills
Viewing the scene of any of these emergencies in such a way as to impede the work of emergency responders can lead to PC 402(a) charges.
Repercussions for a PC 402(a) Conviction
Individuals accused of sightseeing at the scene of an emergency may face misdemeanor charges in the California court system. A conviction under PC 402(a) can lead to the following penalties:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to Six Months
In some cases, individuals accused of sightseeing at the scene of an accident may be sentenced to carry out a specific amount of community service.
Charges That Are Similar to PC 402(a) in California
Note that, in some cases, additional charges may apply if someone sightsees at the scene of an emergency. Depending upon the situation, the court system may hand down additional penalties for:
- California Penal Code Section 402(b): Interfering with a Lifeguard During an Emergency
- California Penal Code Section 409.5(c): Unauthorized Entry Into A Closed Emergency Area
Furthermore, even entering a non-emergency area without the permission of the property owner can sometimes lead to criminal charges for trespassing in California. Depending upon the specifics of a trespassing charge, this accusation can lead to incarceration and high fines.
Focus on Defenses for PC 402(a) Charges
A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can help you deal with sightseeing at the scene of an emergency charge. Your lawyer can focus on your specific legal situation. Based on the facts surrounding your case, a lawyer could argue that:
You Arrived at an Emergency Scene Accidentally
PC 402(a) charges should only apply if you intentionally go to the scene of an emergency to view the emergency or the actions of emergency responders. If you ended up at the emergency scene by accident and without intention, you should not be charged under PC 402(a).
You Did Not Impede Emergency Responders
As we mentioned, PC 402(a) charges apply if you impede the work of emergency responders. If you were merely viewing the scene of an accident and you did not get in the way of any emergency responders, you could be able to avoid a PC 402(a) conviction.
Handle PC 402(a) Charges with a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Getting professional help on your side right away can increase the odds that you will beat California Penal Code Section 402(a): Sightseeing at the Scene of an Emergency charge. Let the Simmrin Law Group begin focusing on your defense now. Call us at (310) 997-4688 or complete our online contact form to get started.
You can begin working on your defense now with a FREE consultation for your specific situation.