California Penal Code Section 409.5(c) PC: Unauthorized Entry Into A Closed Emergency Area

1. Definition and Elements of the Crimepolice patrol

In times of emergency, police, firefighters, paramedics and other authorized responders must be able to perform their duties without intrusion from the public. Members of the public, even those with good intentions, can cause obstructions, delays or distractions or may exacerbate already tense situations. In times of great emergency, such actions may even prove fatal. As a result, making an unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area is a crime pursuant to California Penal Code Section 409.5(c) PC. Those convicted of this offense can face serious penalties.

To prove a violation of unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area under California Penal Code Section 409.5(c) PC, a prosecutor must be able to establish the following:

  1. An area was a menace to the public health or safety due to a calamity, including a flood, storm, fire, earthquake, explosion, accident or other disaster.

  2. The area was closed by means of ropes, markers or guards.
  3. The area was closed to all persons not authorized to remain in the area.

  4. The defendant was not a person authorized to remain in said closed area.

  5. AND the defendant willfully and knowingly entered said closed area and willfully remained within the closed area after receiving notice to evacuate or leave.
2. Related Offenses

Other similar or related offenses include:

  1. Refusal to Disperse - California Penal Code Section 409 PC and California Penal Code Section 416 PC
  2. Sightseeing at the Scene of an EmergencyCalifornia Penal Code Section 402(a) PC
  3. Interfering with a Lifeguard during an EmergencyCalifornia Penal Code Section 402(b) PC
3. Examples

After a major earthquake, a man sees on the news that a structure near his house has suffered major damage and emergency personnel are currently trying to rescue those trapped inside. The man goes to the building and notices that it is blocked by police vehicles and is roped off from the public. The man wants to get some photographs of the scene inside so he crosses the ropes and attempts to enter the building, where he is stopped by emergency personnel. The man could be charged with unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area in violation of California Penal Code Section 409.5(c) PC.

After a major explosion at a chemical processing plant, emergency workers are called to assist in rescue efforts. Certain areas are closed and marked with police tape and guards. One worker at the plant is extremely disoriented after the explosion. While other first responders are performing triage on those who are seriously injured, the man wanders around in a dazed stupor. Without realizing it, the man wanders into an area that has been roped off by the police. This man would not be criminally liable under California Penal Code Section 409.5(c) because he did not act knowingly or willfully, which is a required element of the statute.

4. Defenses to Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area

As discussed above, the defendant must knowingly and willfully make an unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area in order to violate this statute. Thus, if he or she inadvertently wandered into a closed area, that individual would not be guilty of this crime as they lacked the required mental state.

5. Penalties

Unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area is a misdemeanor offense. Those convicted of this crime can be sentenced to serve up to six months in county jail, required completion of community service or community labor hours, substantial court fines and any other conditions of probation that are imposed.

6. Criminal Defense for Unauthorized Entry into a Closed Emergency Area Cases

If you have been arrested for unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area, it is critical that you discuss your case with a knowledgeable Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who now defends those charged with crimes like this. Mr. Kraut is highly respected by judges, prosecutors and law enforcement officers for being a top-notch litigator who fights hard on his clients’ behalf.

For more information about unauthorized entry into a closed emergency area, 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 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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