California Penal Code § 653x PC prohibits contacting 911 for the purpose of harassing someone else. As a misdemeanor, misusing 911 with the intent to harass carries up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines (plus any unnecessary emergency response costs).
The full language of the statute reads as follows:
653x. (a) A person who telephones or uses an electronic communication device to initiate communication with the 911 emergency system with the intent to annoy or harass another person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months, or by both the fine and imprisonment. Nothing in this section shall apply to telephone calls or communications using electronic devices made in good faith.
(b) An intent to annoy or harass is established by proof of repeated calls or communications over a period of time, however short, that are unreasonable under the circumstances.
(c) Upon conviction of a violation of this section, a person also shall be liable for all reasonable costs incurred by any unnecessary emergency response.
California Penal Code 653x PC makes it a crime to call or otherwise contact 911 with the intent to annoy or harass another person. In order to prove the defendant’s intent, prosecutors would show that:
- the defendant made repeated calls or communications
- over a period of time
- that are unreasonable under the circumstances.
It does not matter how long or short the calls are.
Example: One night Penelope makes repeated crank calls to 911 to pester the emergency call-takers. If police can track her, Penelope could be arrested for violating PC 653x.
Misusing 911 with the intent to harass or annoy someone is a misdemeanor in California. Penalties include:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.
Plus, the defendant will be ordered to pay all reasonable costs incurred by the emergency response (if any).
A defense to PC 653x charges is that the defendant was acting in good faith.1
See our related article, misusing 911 (PC 653y).
- California Penal Code 653x PC – Use of 911 emergency system with intent to harass; See, for example: Good faith exception; Liability for expenses. People v. Bloom (Cal. App. 4th Dist. June 25, 2010), 185 Cal. App. 4th 1496, 111 Cal. Rptr. 3d 710; People v. Cheaves (Cal. App. 2d Dist. Nov. 19, 2003), 113 Cal. App. 4th 445, 6 Cal. Rptr. 3d 382.