False Public Alarm
We have all heard the saying, “you can’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater.” Indeed, creating a False Public Alarm in New Jersey is a criminal offense that can result in substantial penalties. If you are charged with creating a False Public Alarm, you should contact an experienced New Jersey criminal defense lawyer immediately.
New Jersey statute 2C:33-3 provides:
False Public Alarms. a. Except as provided in subsection b. or c. of this section, a person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he initiates or circulates a report or warning of an impending fire, explosion, bombing, crime, catastrophe or emergency knowing that the report or warning is false or baseless and that it is likely to cause evacuation of a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transport, or to cause public inconvenience or alarm. A person is guilty of a crime of the third degree if he knowingly causes such false alarm to be transmitted to or within any organization, official or volunteer, for dealing with emergencies involving danger to life or property.
b. A person is guilty of a crime of the second degree if in addition to the report or warning initiated, circulated or transmitted under subsection a. of this section, he places or causes to be placed any false or facsimile bomb in a building, place of assembly, or facility of public transport or in a place likely to cause public inconvenience or alarm. A violation of this subsection is a crime of the first degree if it occurs during a declared period of national, State or county emergency.
c. A person is guilty of a crime of the second degree if a violation of subsection a. of this section in fact results in serious bodily injury to another person or occurs during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. A person is guilty of a crime of the first degree if a violation of subsection a. of this section in fact results in death.
d. For the purposes of this section, "in fact" means that strict liability is imposed. It shall not be a defense that the death or serious bodily injury was not a foreseeable consequence of the person's acts or that the death or serious bodily injury was caused by the actions of another person or by circumstances beyond the control of the actor. The actor shall be strictly liable upon proof that the crime occurred during a declared period of national, State or county emergency. It shall not be a defense that the actor did not know that there was a declared period of emergency at the time the crime occurred.
e. A person is guilty of a crime of the fourth degree if the person knowingly places a call to a 9-1-1 emergency telephone system without purpose of reporting the need for 9-1-1 service.
As set forth above, defendants convicted under this law face a wide range of penalties. As a general rule, the severity of the offense will influence the severity of the penalty. For instance, if someone is injured as a result of the crime, a defendant may be charged with a Second Degree Crime. This can result in up to 10 years in state prison. On the other hand, pulling a fire alarm or prank calling 911 will more likely result in a Fourth Degree Crime, which can result in up to 18 months in prison.
Our law firm has experience representing individuals charged with False Public Alarm. In fact, we recently won a trial in the New Jersey Superior Court where our client was charged with Third Degree False Public Alarm. If you have any questions about that case, or would like other information about charges pending against you, please contact us today for a free consultation.