Causing a False Public Alarm in New Jersey
“Being charged with creating a false public alarm means you could be facing anywhere from 18 months to 20 years in jail in NJ. This offense carries significant fines, prison time, and other consequences.”
While it may have seemed like a harmless prank at the time, calling in a bomb threat to get out of a school exam is a serious crime in New Jersey. In fact, New Jersey’s false public alarm law, N.J.S.A 2C:33-3, covers more than just bomb threats. It includes reporting or warning of fires, explosions, crimes, catastrophes, or other emergencies and incidents knowing that the report or warning is false and will cause people to flee in alarm from public places, like buildings or public transportation. It is a third degree crime also to call in a false alarm to emergency services providers, like police or fire departments. And the law forbids other acts too.
Whether you have been charged with violating the false alarm statute for what seems to be a harmless prank or social media post, the consequences are serious. An indictable felony charge comes not only with potential incarceration and costly fines, but a criminal record that may prevent you from employment, university admissions, or housing opportunities. Contact our experienced lawyers today to find out how we can help you calculate your best options and strategies for false public alarm charges in Bergen County, Union County, Morris County, Passaic County, Middlesex County, Essex County, or elsewhere in New Jersey. We know how to interpret and apply the laws to your circumstances, and we can assist you with taking advantage of the many ways that these charges can be downgraded or dismissed. You can reach us online or by calling (201)-614-2474 for a free consultation.
False Public Alarms: New Jersey Law Section 2c:33-3
Under N.J.S.A 2C:33-3, it is a third degree crime to knowingly make a false report or warning about an upcoming disaster or emergency, such as an explosion or fire, when you are aware that there is no grounds for it and that it will probably lead to people evacuating or locking down a location, or otherwise cause alarm. Calling in or reporting a false bomb threat, hostage taking, person armed with a deadly weapon, critical infrastructure warning, or other incident requiring emergency response is a second degree crime. Critical infrastructure includes places holding necessary state functions, like national security, the economic operations, or public safety.
Planting a fake bomb in a public place, creating a false alarm that causes a school evacuation or lockdown while school is in session, and making false reports of emergency situations that cause injury are also second degree crimes, except if the false alarm is created during a state of emergency or results in death. Then, it is a first degree crime. It is no defense to claim ignorance of the state of emergency, that school was in session, or not knowing that someone would be harmed. The actor is strictly liable if the intention to commit the criminal acts are proven. A lesser but no less serious offense is making a false 9-1-1 call, which is categorized as a fourth degree crime.
While it is more common to hear of minor high school students calling in false alarms, like bomb threats or fire alarms, just to create a distraction or disruption of the school day, the common adult charge is for calling 9-1-1 for non-emergency reasons or pulling fire alarms in government buildings, like courthouses. The Office of Emergency Telecommunications Services notes that those calling 9-1-1 for non-emergency situations, like paying tickets or needing directions, face prosecution under the False Public Alarm laws. Further, they advise accidental callers to stay on the line to inform the dispatcher of the accidental call so they don’t have to waste time and resources calling back.
Punishments for False Public Alarm Offenses in New Jersey
All indictable crimes have serious consequences, including crimes for creating a false public alarm. In particular, first degree crimes come with a 10 to 20 year prison sentence and a $200,000.00 fine; second degree crimes result in a five to ten year prison sentence and a $150,000.00 fine; third degree crimes carry a three to five year prison sentence and a $15,000.00 fine; and fourth degree crime sentences are up to 18 months in prison and a $10,000.00 fine. In addition to criminal charges, a conviction for violating N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3 may result in a civil penalty of more than $2,000.00 or the actual costs for emergency response services by police, fire or other services, or the costs of a school lockdown or evacuation, in responding to the false alarm perpetrated by an adult.
Juveniles under 21 years old convicted of a false public alarm are sentenced to a six month driver’s license suspension or a six month delay in getting a driver’s license. Juveniles are sentenced in the juvenile system, which is more forgiving than the adult criminal justice system. Weighing public safety against a juvenile’s rehabilitation and overall best interest, a judge will confiscate a juvenile’s driver’s license and have it sent to the Division of Motor Vehicles Director for suspension. If under 17 and without a license, the suspension date for obtaining a license begins after the minor turns 17.
Accused of Causing a False Public Alarm in NJ? Get Defense Help
Posting false reports, allegations, or misleading information about emergencies that create a false public alarm is a serious matter in New Jersey that may get you arrested. Rest assured, false reports leading to public evacuations and lockdowns are aggressively investigated and prosecuted in New Jersey. If you have been charged with this serious offense, you should seek knowledgeable legal guidance and defense representation to avoid the life-changing repercussions you are now facing. Contact our attorneys at (201)-614-2474 now to talk through your false public alarms case and your options. Be advised, the consultation is free and phones are answered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to best serve your needs.