Penal Code Section 148.4 – Malicious Tampering with Fire Alarm1

Penal Code Section 148.4(a) Violations (Misdemeanor)

The prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant “willfully” and “maliciously” tampered with fire protection equipment; OR
  2. The Defendant “willfully” and “maliciously” transmitted a false message indicating the presence of a fire by any electronic or other means.

An act is “willful” if it is done on purpose.2

A “malicious” act is one that is done to vex, annoy, or inure another person, or with an intent to do a wrongful act.3

Punshment for Section 148.4(a) violations:

The crime is a misdemeanor carrying the possibility of probation and a jail sentence of up to one-year in a count jail.

Penal Code Section 148.4(b) Violations (Felony):

The prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The Defendant “willfully” and “maliciously” sent, transmitted or otherwise sounded the false alarm of a fire by any means; AND
  2. A person sustained death or great bodily injury as a result of the false alarm.

Punishment for Section 148.4(b) violations:

Penal Code Section 148.4 may be punished in the following manner:

  • The crime is a straight felony, it may not be “wobbled” down to a misdemeanor pursuant to Penal Code Section 17(b).
  • Felony probation and a local jail commitment of up to 365 days in the county jail;
  • Felony Jail sentence of 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in a county jail.

About the Author:

Bill Haney is a former supervising prosecutor in the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office.  He now serves criminal defense clients in Ventura County.  If you or a loved one are charged with a crime in Ventura County, Mr. Haney will give you a free consultation and outline the most effective defense available to you.

Sources Cited / Notes:
1 Last edited November 7, 2017.
2 Pen. Code Section 7(1). A willful act is simply an act that is done on purpose. It does not require any intent to break the law or to injure another person.
3 Pen. Code Section 7(4).