California Penal Code Section 405 PC: Participating In A Riot

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

riot defense

Under California Penal Code Section 405 PC, it is illegal to participate in a riot. To prove that the defendant is guilty of this offense, the prosecutor must be able to prove beyond a reasonable that the defendant willfully participated in a riot.

A riot occurs when:

  1. Two or more people

  2. Acting together and without legal authority

  3. Disturbs the public peace by using force or violence, or by threatening to use force or violence AND

  4. They have the immediate ability to carry out those threats.

It is not necessary that a previous agreement between the rioters exist. Additionally, a person's mere presence at the scene of a riot does not make that person a rioter.

2. Examples

There is a peaceful protest outside a courthouse during the trial of a man accused of killing a local community leader. The man is acquitted of murder and the peaceful protest begins to turn violent, with members of the group smashing windows, assaulting police and accosting bystanders. The people involved in the acts of violence or threats could be prosecuted for rioting under California Penal Code Section 405 PC under these circumstances. However, members of the peaceful protest who do not participate or facilitate the threats or violent acts would not be criminally liable under the statute, as mere presence at a riot does not make one a guilty of the crime.

Riots can occur under various circumstances, and in recent years have occurred after the announcement of jury verdicts, following sporting events, and during political protests that become out of control.

3. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Inciting a Riot - California Penal Code Section 404.6 PC

  2. Unlawful Assembly - California Penal Code Section 408 PC

  3. Failure to Disperse - California Penal Code Section 409 PC, California Penal Code Section 416 PC

  4. Disturbing the Peace - California Penal Code Section 415 PC

4. Defenses to Participating in a Riot

As mentioned above, if someone was merely present at the scene of a riot and did not participate in violence or threatening behavior, they cannot be held criminally liable for participating in a riot. This often becomes an issue during political protests that turn violent, when police arrest large masses of people. Only those who act violently can be prosecuted for rioting, though non-violent participants may be guilty of a different offense if they fail to disperse when ordered.

Additionally, there may be circumstances in which a person is entitled to use reasonable force in self-defense to prevent an immediate harm. For example, during a lawful and peaceful protest outside of a corporation, private security guards begin to assault members of the peaceful protest. In these situations, a protester who used reasonable force in self defense would have a valid defense if he or she is ever charged with participating in a riot.

5. Penalties

Participating in a riot is a misdemeanor level offense. Someone convicted of participating in a riot can be sentenced to up to a year in county jail in addition to significant court fines. A judge may require additional conditions of probation, such as community service or community labor, staying away from the scene of the riot, and anger management classes or other counseling. In addition, the defendant would have to pay restitution for any damages he or she may have caused through their unlawful actions. A conviction for participating in a riot would remain on a person's criminal record and would be visible to employers, landlords, or any other person conducting a criminal background check.

6. Criminal Defense for Participating in a Riot Cases

If you have been charged with participating in a riot, it is important that you consult with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney right away. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who can aggressively fight charges of this nature. Mr. Kraut is highly respected throughout the court system for his grasp of the criminal law and unmatched litigation skills. Mr. Kraut works hard to ensure his clients receive the best defense possible.

For more information about participating in a riot, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1480, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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