What Happens if You Are Charged with False Public Alarms Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3?

Most people assume that pulling a fire alarm is little more than a harmless prank.  However, this could not be further from the truth.  Far from being a light-hearted joke, sounding a false fire alarm is a very serious felony which can lead to hefty fines, a long prison sentence, and a permanent criminal record.  The consequences are serious, but an experienced New Jersey defense attorney may be able to have your case dismissed or obtain a sentence reduction.

Contact an Atlantic City Criminal Lawyer for a Free Consultation

If you were arrested for pulling a fire alarm at an Atlantic City casino, hotel, movie theatre, or other public setting, you face life-altering criminal consequences.  You need to make sure that your rights are being protected by an aggressive Atlantic City defense lawyer with extensive experience handling false public alarm charges in New Jersey.

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The false public alarm attorneys at the Law Offices of John J. Zarych have successfully handled numerous cases involving gamblers, tourists, and hotel guests charged with sounding false fire alarms in casinos, such as Bally’s Atlantic City, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, Caesars at Atlantic City, Tropicana Casino Resort, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, Resorts Casino Hotel, Golden Nugget Atlantic City, and the Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.  We have an in-depth knowledge of the defense strategies used against these charges and excel at challenging the arguments prosecutors attempt to raise.

Call the Law Offices of John J. Zarych right away at (609) 616-4956 to set up a free and completely confidential legal consultation regarding your case.  Our line is open around the clock, including evenings and weekends.

What Happens When You Are Arrested for Pulling a Fire Alarm?

Sounding a false fire alarm is an indictable crime, which is equivalent to a felony, under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-3.  Under the same statute, it is also a crime to deliberately call 9-1-1 without an emergency, or to “initiate or circulate a report or warning of an impending fire, explosion, bombing, crime, catastrophe or emergency” when you know that:

  1. The report is untrue.
  2. The report is likely to result in evacuation of the building or property.

A police officer can arrest a suspect without a warrant if they observe an apparent crime in progress, or if they have probable cause to believe that a crime was committed.  Probable cause will be reviewed at a hearing aptly named the probable cause hearing.  If the court does not find probable cause to proceed with the case, the case must be dismissed.  However, prior to a probable cause hearing, the defendant has a hearing called the first appearance.  This is where bail — the payment required to release a suspect from custody in a county jail or holding center — is reviewed.  Some defendants qualify for a form of cost-free bail called Release on Recognizance (ROR).

The burden of proof is on the prosecutor, who must prove beyond a reasonable doubt all elements of the offense alleged in order for the defendant to be convicted.  The jury must return a unanimous verdict.  When jurors are in disagreement, called a “hung jury,” the result is a mistrial and the defendant may have a new trial.

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NJ Criminal Penalties for False Public Alarms: Fines and Sentencing

Most states refer to serious crimes as felonies.  In New Jersey, felonies are known as indictable crimes, indictable offenses, or simply crimes.  Indictable crimes are broken down into four categories by degree: fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, and first degree crimes.  The lower the number, the more serious the offense and related penalties.

False public alarm charges can have different classifications — and in turn, different penalties for the defendant — depending on the details of the incident that occurred, such as whether the incident resulted in another person being injured or killed.  Due to a rule known as strict liability, it is not a defense to state you did not know or foresee that a person would be harmed or killed by your actions.  Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-3, false public alarms can be fourth degree crimes, third degree crimes, second degree crimes, or even first degree crimes, the most serious criminal charge possible in the state of New Jersey.

Indictable offenses typically result in expensive fines and long prison sentences for defendants who are convicted, though in some cases, it may be possible to obtain alternative sentencing such as probation or community service depending on the defendant’s criminal history, the nature of the offense, and other details.  Defendants who are convicted of false public alarms, such as pulling a fire alarm at a casino in Atlantic City, may face the following criminal penalties:

  • Fourth Degree Crime
    • Fine — Up to $10,000
    • Sentencing — Up to 18 months in prison
  • Third Degree Crime
    • Fine — Up to $15,000
    • Sentencing — 3 to 5 years in prison
  • Second Degree Crime
    • Fine — Up to $150,000
    • Sentencing — 5 to 10 years in prison
  • First Degree Crime
    • Fine — Up to $200,000
    • Sentencing — 10 to 20 years in prison

Don’t wait to get legal representation from a trusted firm with a reputation for taking on difficult cases in the Atlantic County and Cape May County area.  If you, your spouse, or one of your family members was arrested for a false fire alarm or other casino crimes in Atlantic City, call our experienced New Jersey casino crime attorneys right away at (609) 616-4956 for a free legal consultation.