Law enforcement officers and emergency responders sometimes decide to close an area to the public so they can carry out their duties without delays or distractions. All individuals in California are legally required to stay out of closed emergency areas for this reason.
Anyone who ignores this guideline can be prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 409.5(c): Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area. The Simmrin Law Group can help you focus on the definition of a closed emergency area, the results of a conviction for a PC 409.5(c) violation, and more right here.
Defining Closed Emergency Areas in California
Understanding closed emergency areas is vital to grasping PC 409.5(c) charges. According to California’s legal codes, closed emergency areas can be set up by a large number of individuals in a wide range of circumstances. For example, all of the following events could lead to a closed emergency area:
- Floods and Storms
- Fires and Explosions
- Earthquakes and Accidents
If one of these events occurs, the following individuals could close down an area:
- California Highway Patrol Officers
- Police Department Officers
- Marshal or Sheriff’s Office Officers
- Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Employees Designated as Peace Officers
- Department of Parks and Recreation Employees Designated as Peace Officers
- Department of Fish and Games Employees Designated as Peace Officers
- Full-Time Lifeguards or Marine Safety Officers
In some cases, these individuals may also close an area around a command post set up to handle an emergency situation in California. All command posts are closed areas that cannot be entered by unauthorized personnel.
Focus on the Definition of Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area
Now that we’ve reviewed closed emergency areas, we can focus on the exact definition of a PC 409.5(c) violation. Individuals may face this charge if they:
- Willfully and Knowingly
- Enter One of the Above Listed Closed Emergency Areas
- After Being Told to Leave or Evacuate the Area
Only unauthorized individuals should face charges for a PC 409.5(c) violation. Emergency responders and authorized individuals who are working for news reporting services of any kind should not be prosecuted under PC 409.5(c).
The Penalties for a Conviction Under PC 409.5(c)
Individuals can face misdemeanor charges if they are accused of unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area. A conviction for PC 409.5(c) charges can lead to the following penalties in California’s court system:
- Fines: Up to $1,000
- Jail Time: Up to Six Months
Note that, in some cases, the judge may decide to sentence an individual to probation instead of jail time.
Criminal Charges Similar to Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area
The court system uses a number of charges to prosecute individuals who enter emergency areas or interfere during emergency situations. These charges can include:
- California Penal Code Section 402(a): Sightseeing at the Scene of an Emergency
- California Penal Code Section 402(b): Interfering with a Lifeguard During an Emergency
Individuals can also face criminal charges for trespassing on another person’s property outside of emergency circumstances. A property-crimes lawyer in Los Angeles can help you go over the penalties and specifics of a trespassing charge in the state of California.
Common Legal Defenses for Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area
A Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer can help you handle PC 409.5(c) accusations. A legal professional can review the facts surrounding your case. Depending upon your situation, your lawyer could work to build your defense by arguing:
You Were Authorized to Enter a Closed Emergency Area
As we mentioned earlier, there are several exceptions to PC 409.5(c). Members of the press and emergency responders are allowed to enter closed emergency areas. If you had a legal right to be in the area, you should not be convicted for a PC 409.5(c) violation.
You Did Not Know You Were Entering a Closed Emergency Area
Sometimes, emergencies happen very suddenly. Emergency situations can also be incredibly confusing. In these circumstances, people sometimes wander into areas where they do not belong without realizing what they are doing. If you did not knowingly enter a closed emergency area, you could avoid a PC 409.5(c) conviction.
Build a Defense for PC 409.5(c) Charges Right Now
California Penal Code Section 409.5(c): Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area charges can be incredibly difficult to handle on your own. Fortunately, you can get help from the Simmrin Law Group’s criminal defense lawyers in Los Angeles by calling (310) 896-2723 or filling out our online contact form.
Focus on your defense right now by contacting us for a FREE case evaluation.