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It’s No Longer a Crime to Refuse to Help the Police in California

October 5, 2019

The Posse Comitatus Act is no more

It’s No Longer a Crime to Refuse to Help the Police in California

California has many holdovers from its Wild West days. As of September, an old law that made it a crime to refuse to help police is no longer one of those things.

As a criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA can explain, the California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a misdemeanor crime for any “able-bodied person” aged 18 or older to refuse a request from a police offer for help in making an arrest. In the past, this type of law was often used by law enforcement to catch runaway slaves. State Senator Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat from Los Angeles, sponsored Senate Bill 192 (SB 192) to remove the law from the books. In doing so, he noted that the law put citizens in a difficult position and forced them into a moral dilemma.

The California State Sheriff’s Association opposed SB 192, arguing that there are situations where a law enforcement officer may need the help of private citizens. This may include emergency situations or risks to public safety. In 2014, a Trinity County Sheriff’s office used the law in its defense during a lawsuit after a man and a woman claimed that they were tricked into responding to a dangerous 911 call. In that case, the woman was severely injured by a man who had murdered her neighbors after the local sheriff called and asked them to check up on their neighbor who had called 911 for help. Their claim for damages was dismissed because the sheriff’s office argued that they voluntarily took on the role of law enforcement — and so they were only entitled to workers’ compensation.

While it is unclear how often violations of this law were charged, having it on the books did put Californians in a difficult position. If they refused to help the police, they could be charged with a misdemeanor offense, and face jail time and a fine of up to $1,000. If they agreed to help the police, they could be putting themselves in serious danger. For this reason, many lawmakers agreed that it was past time to get ride of the Posse Comitatus Act in California.

Although this law is no longer on the books in California, there are a range of other misdemeanor crimes that you may be charged with in the state. If you are charged with a criminal offense, knowing your rights can help you avoid more serious trouble. You should always exercise your right to remain silent. Be polite and respectful, but inform the officers that you will not answer questions. Then ask for a criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA. Your attorney can advocate for you and defend you against the charges. While it can be difficult, remember to stay calm — your lawyer will work with you to develop a strong defense. Panicking may lead you to make a bad decision, such as trying to talk your way out of an arrest…which almost never works.

If you have been charged with a California crime, the Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact our firm today at 855-397-0210 or dchambers@clfca.com to schedule a free initial appointment with an experienced criminal lawyer Santa Ana, CA.

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