The casino floor is a place where high stakes rule the day. High stakes and the risks inherent in gambling can make emotions run high and result in impulsive decisions that the individual would otherwise never make. The casino floor is also a place of bright lights, loud noises, and seemingly glamorous high-rollers. Despite the presence of big money games or perhaps because of them, it is shockingly easy to become distracted, disoriented, or otherwise become confused on the casino floor. In some instances the distressed individual may intentionally or unintentionally trip a fire alarm in their confusion or to obtain help.
However, the individual’s intent in pulling the fire alarm can became clouded and marred due to the circumstances present. In some cases the casino may believe that the alarm was pulled to gain an advantage, take revenge on the casino for losses, or otherwise for improper and malicious purposes.
New Jersey Criminalizes False Public Alarms Regardless of Where They Occur
N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3 criminalizes the false pulling of fire alarms or the making of false reports warning of an explosion, disaster, or other emergency when he or she knows that the report is false or without merit and that the report is likely to incite panic or cause an evacuation of a facility or means of public transport. Thus, to secure a conviction the prosecution must prove three elements beyond a reasonable shadow of a doubt:
- The defendant knowingly reported or warned against an impending emergency or disaster.
- The individual knew that the report was baseless or was not truthful. In this context “knew” not only means actual knowledge, but also awareness of a high probability that the information was untrue.
- The defendant knew that the untrue report was likely to spur the evacuation of the casino or other facility.
Under the statute it is not necessary for an evacuation to actually occur. Rather, what is required is that the State must prove the report was false, the defendant knew it was false, and that the warning was likely to cause an evacuation.
Penalties Become Significantly More Harsh When Serious Bodily Injury Results
Typically, making a false public alarm in a casino or in another facility is guilty of a third-degree crime. However, under certain circumstances a second-degree crime is the appropriate charge. Under N.J.S.A. § 2C:33-3(b) it is a second-degree crime to make a false report that leads to the serious bodily injury of another person. If the false report such as puling the fire alarm leads to another’s tragic death, then first-degree criminal charges are appropriate. Likewise, if the false alarm comes during a declared national, county, or state emergency first-degree criminal charges would be appropriate.
While a third-degree crime can, upon conviction, be punished by three to five years in prison the sentences become significantly more harsh for second and first-degree crimes. A second-degree crime can be punished by a prison sentence between five to ten years. A first-degree crime can result in the imposition of a 10 to 20 year prison sentence. Significant monetary fines also exist for these crimes. As a criminal offense, any legal proceedings for an alleged false alarm would take place in the New Jersey Superior Court.
Have You Been Accused of A false Fire Alarm in a Casino?
Being accused of committing a crime in a casino can carry significant penalties including informal penalties such as the stigma of a criminal conviction. Even if the individual did not intend for it to occur, if death or serious bodily occurs both the formal and informal consequences are made more severe. To clear your name and protect your freedom, reputation, and career you need an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the situation you face.
The experienced criminal lawyers of the law Firm of John J. Zarych are dedicated to fighting for you. We are based in South Jersey so we are aware of the events and perceptions that are prevalent in the area. When you work with our firm you can expect an aggressive and strategic handling of your criminal defense. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call our firm at (609) 616-4956. We have offices in Atlantic City, Cape May, Wildwood, and Atlantic County.