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Causing a False Public Alarm

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Mount Holly False Public Alarm Defense Lawyers

False Public Alarm Charges in Burlington County

Are you considering playing a practical joke by reporting a fire on the company premises? Even if the threat is fake, you may be committing a crime in New Jersey if you do. Calling in false bomb threats is not exclusive to high schoolers avoiding tests. People call in bomb threats at courthouses, businesses, high-rise condominiums, and other places where people gather. They also report impending terrorist attacks or armed individuals to the police. Claiming that a fire is actively burning to the fire department, pulling a fire alarm, tripping a smoke detector, or the iconic shouting fire in a crowded theater are other false alarms that could lead to people rushing to or from a building or different location.

However, even non-emergency false alarms can cause people to react hastily, such as the false rumor that a factory is closing. Someone may spread such a rumor to damage the workplace when people look for other jobs and quit en masse. This scenario may not cause physical harm, like shouting fire or pulling a fire alarm that causes people to run and trample others who have tripped to the ground. Depending on the severity of the charge for causing a false public alarm in New Jersey, the penalties become increasingly worse for the person facing the charges. Regardless, the consequences of a conviction for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3 are steep in time and money. For this reason, a skilled criminal defense attorney is necessary for the optimal defense and outcome.

If you are facing false public alarm charges in Burlington County, New Jersey, such as Delran, Pemberton, Mount Laurel, Cinnaminson, Mount Holly, Lumberton, Gloucester City, or Burlington Township, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay for assistance with your defense. We are poised to challenge the case against you, review all of your options, and determine the best approach to getting the charges reduced or dismissed entirely to keep you out of prison and help you avoid a criminal record if possible. Contact our Evesham office at 609-850-8284 or send us a message to request a free consultation.

New Jersey Causing a False Public Alarm Offense

Causing public alarm by a false report or call about a potential disaster that leads to an evacuation of a building or other place is a serious crime, typically a third degree indictable offense. The law lists false public alarms as intentionally making false reports or warnings of fires, explosions, bombs, crimes, catastrophes, or emergencies to make people alarmed or evacuate an area in N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3.

Anticipating the degrees of damage that could arise from foolish pranks and serious threats, the New Jersey legislature included sections 2(b) and (c) to N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3, which defines when false public alarms rise to second degree crimes. When someone goes beyond mere calling or reporting a bomb threat and leaves a fake bomb at the threatened location, they can be charged with a second degree indictable offense.

In addition, it is a second degree crime to create a public false alarm that results in someone’s physical injury or during a state of emergency. And when an individual creates a false public alarm with a fake bomb during a state of emergency or death occurs, the grade level rises to a first degree crime. Making a false 911 report is a fourth degree crime.

Sentence for False Public Alarms Charges in NJ

People get hurt, businesses lose money, and first responders waste time on false reports when they could be saving lives over violations of N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3. As such, the penalties are significant. An individual could spend up to 18 months in prison for making a false 911 call, which is a fourth degree crime. Those charged with third degree false public alarms offenses are facing 3 to 5 years of imprisonment. A second degree criminal conviction for creating a false public alarm means anywhere from 5 years to up to 10 years in prison. Others could spend 10 to 20 years in prison for placing a fake bomb and false bomb threat to the police when a natural disaster, a hostage situation, or other state or nationwide emergency occurs, as this is a crime of the first degree.

Additionally, all people who violate the statute pay a civil penalty of $2,000.00 or whatever the police, fire department, or emergency services lost for responding to a false alarm, whichever is greater. The penalty is in addition to fines to pay for first, second, third or fourth degree crimes, which are $200,000.00, $150,000,00, $15,000.00, and $10,000.00, respectively.

Can a Minor be Prosecuted for Causing a False Public Alarm in New Jersey?

Even minors are subject to prosecution for violating the false public alarm statute. So long as they knowingly make a false report or warning about an emergency, bomb, explosion, or fire (or report a false 911 emergency), knowing such a report or warning could lead to an evacuation, regardless of who the minor reports to or warns, a minor can be adjudicated a delinquent or face adult charges (if the accused is 15 or older and waived from juvenile to adult criminal court).

Depending on the severity of the act, a juvenile charged with a false public alarm offense may be assigned probation, given a deferred disposition, or sentenced to detention in a juvenile facility. The more serious the crime degree, the more harsh the exposure to penalties for a juvenile offense. In addition to probation, detention, or incarceration, a juvenile who violates 2C:33-3 loses their driver’s license for six months or delays their ability to obtain a license by six months.

Before a determination of juvenile delinquency and an appropriate sentence, a minor undergoes evaluation for services and resources that may help rehabilitate them rather than incarcerate them. However, a repeat offender or one who made terroristic threats may face detention or incarceration if the prosecutor successfully waives the case to a superior court upon proof that the case should be in adult criminal court to safeguard the public and punish the offender.

Potential Defenses for N.J.S.A 2C:33-3

You may have defenses to the charges that our criminal defense attorneys can explain. A prosecutor must prove all elements of the crime: the call or report of a disaster or other emergency, knowledge of the falsity of such a call or report of a threat, and knowledge that such a report or call about a false public threat is likely to cause an evacuation or emergency response. The prosecutor must also prove those facts in cases of injuries or emergency states.

For one, a mistaken belief in the truth of a bomb, threat, fire, gunman, or other reported danger may be a valid defense to the charges. A prosecutor fails to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to all the elements of the crime when they cannot substantiate a defendant’s intention and knowledge by direct or circumstantial evidence. Other defenses may exist regarding the state’s infringement on your constitutional rights by an improper arrest, search, seizure, or detention.

Moreover, a first offender may be eligible for a diversionary program that allows a defendant to complete a supervised program like probation to avoid prison. A defendant must qualify with a clean criminal history and usually, charges lower than second degree offenses. Prosecutors typically do not accept applicants into the Pre-Trial Intervention Program with second or first degree crimes, but a talented criminal lawyer may be able to convince the prosecutor to allow for your application if you have been charged with a second degree false public alarm offense and you have no prior history.

Consult a False Public Alarm Attorney in Burlington County NJ

If you face false public alarm charges, you will need advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney familiar with this statute and defenses. You will also need a dedicated lawyer to work hard to negotiate a plea deal, represent you in all dealings with the prosecution, help you gain admission into a diversionary program, or litigate the case at trial to get the charges dropped. Our skilled attorneys at Proetta, Oliver, & Fay are ready to help you defend against criminal charges for causing a false public alarm in Palmyra, Eastampton, Bordentown, Willingboro, Springfield, Florence, and other towns in greater Burlington County, NJ. Contact a criminal defense attorney at our law firm today at 609-850-8284 have a free consultation and find out more about how our team can best handle your case.

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