Penal Code 148.4 PC is the California law making it a crime to make false reports of a fire. Specifically, this section prohibits
- tampering with or breaking fire alarms or fire protection equipment (such as extinguishers)
- triggering a false fire alarm, OR
- making a false report of a fire
In terms of false alarms, the key is that it must be done “willfully and maliciously.” This means the person knows that the report or alarm is false and he acts recklessly. If people have a good faith belief that a fire really does exist, then they do not violate this section by reporting it, even if they are mistaken.
Penalties for False Report of a Fire in California
Penal Code 148.4 (a) makes it a misdemeanor to trigger a false fire alarm, make a false report of a fire, or destroy fire equipment. As a misdemeanor, the judge can sentence the person to up to one year of county jail.
If the false alarm or report causes someone to suffer great bodily injury or death, then the offense becomes a felony. As a felony, the judge can sentence the person to California State Prison for up to 3 years.
Note that prosecutors could also charge Penal Code 148.3 – false report of an emergency. This section applies not just to false reports of a fire, but also to any false report that is likely to (or does) trigger an emergency response.
For further assistance…
If you’ve been charged with making a false fire report, don’t despair. Innocent people get accused of this all the time.
You may have had a good faith belief that there was an actual fire. Or it may have been someone else who triggered the false alarm but you got blamed for it.
If you or loved one is charged with Penal Code 148.4 PC making a false fire alarm and you are looking to hire an attorney for representation, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We can provide a free consultation in office or by phone. We have local offices in Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Pasadena, Long Beach, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Riverside, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose and throughout California.