Residents of the United States are Constitutionally guaranteed the right to assemble. However, this right only covers peaceful assemblies. Individuals that do not gather peacefully could end up facing charges under California Penal Code Section 408: Unlawful Assembly.
You can go over the definition of an unlawful assembly right here with the Simmrin Law Group. Consider the penalties for a conviction with legal professionals. You can even use this article to review legal defenses for PC 408 accusations.
The Definition of an Unlawful Assembly in California
The state of California uses California Penal Code Section 407 to define situations that qualify as unlawful assemblies. PC 407 states that an unlawful assembly can occur anytime two or more people gather to perform:
- An Unlawful Act OR
- A Lawful Act in a Way That Is Tumultuous, Violent, or Boisterous
Individuals should only be charged with unlawful assembly if they purposefully gather together in a way that they know is unlawful. Additionally, the court system in California has ruled that unlawful assembly charges should only be used if an assembly carrying out a lawful act behaves in a way that is:
- Violent OR
- Posing a Clear and Present Danger of Imminent Violence
Penalties for an Unlawful Assembly Conviction
- Fines and Fees
- Jail Time
- Community Service
In fact, an unlawful assembly conviction can result in up to six months of time in jail.
Charges Like Unlawful Assembly in California
The state of California uses a number of criminal charges to prosecute individuals who are gathered together in unlawful ways. Some common charges can include:
- California Penal Code Section 404.6: Inciting a Riot
- California Penal Code Section 405: Participating in a Riot
- California Penal Code Section 409 and 416: Refusal to Disperse
- California Penal Code Section 415: Disturbing the Peace
You should also be aware that unlawful assembly charges can apply if a group gathers together to carry out an unlawful act. Groups might end up charged with unlawful assembly if they perform acts of vandalism, for example.
Examples of Unlawful Assembly Violations
Consider these examples to broaden your understanding of unlawful assembly charges:
A group of students gathers in a library to stage a peaceful protest about high tuition hikes. One of the students begins making an impassioned speech for taking more direct actions, and the other students begin to pile up books to burn. As the gathering turns to unlawful activities, all individuals involved could be charged with unlawful assembly.
A crowd gathers outside a courtroom to protest the recent acquittal of a man charged with murdering his wife. They carry poster-boards and some of them take up a chant. Their behavior is reported to the police, but they are not breaking any laws or threatening imminent violence, so they should not face unlawful assembly charges.
Legal Defenses for Unlawful Assembly Accusations
You do not just have to accept an unlawful assembly conviction in the state of California. You can begin working on building your defense as soon as you are charged by contacting a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles. Depending on your the unique circumstances surrounding your case, your lawyer could argue:
You Were Not Part of the Unlawful Assembly
Many unlawful assemblies take place in public places. You could be caught up in the general vicinity of an unlawful assembly and mistaken for a participant even if you had nothing to do with the assembled group. In this case, your lawyer could fight to resolve PC 408 charges in your favor.
You Tried to Leave an Assembly When Unlawful Behavior Began
As we mentioned earlier, sometimes lawful assemblies turn into unlawful assemblies without warning. If you were part of the lawfully behaving group that shifted to unlawful activity and were attempting to leave the group because you did not want to participate, you could avoid a PC 408 charge.
Your Assembly Was Not Violent or in Danger of Causing Imminent Violence
As we mentioned, individuals are allowed to peaceably assemble together around the country. If your group was carrying out lawful actions in a nonviolent manner, you should not be convicted under PC 408, even if your actions were initially misinterpreted.
Get Professional Help Dealing with Unlawful Assembly Charges
Improve your odds of beating a California Penal Code Section 408: Unlawful Assembly charge right away by contacting a legal professional. The Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at the Simmrin Law Group can begin focusing on your defense as soon as you complete our online contact form or
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