Back in school days gone by – or at least how Hollywood and television remembers them – pulling a fire alarm was a mostly consequence-free means of getting out of giving that big presentation or taking that test you know that you’d fail. However, such an idyllic consequence-free environment is simply not the way of the world. For adults and children alike, the reality is that pulling a fire alarm when no emergency actually exists can result in serious criminal charges. The fact of serious criminal consequences remains true regardless of where the false alarm is sounded whether it’s in an Atlantic City casino or in some other building or facility.
These offenses are taken so seriously because in responding to the alarm resources are diverted from standby and may not be available should an actual emergency occur. However, fire companies must respond to all alarms despite the high—incidence of false alarms due to the rapidity at which a blaze can spread through and destroy a structure.
It Is a Felony to Falsely Sound a Fire Alarm in New Jersey
Under N.J.S.A. 2C:33-3 it is a felony to pull a fire alarm or otherwise make a false report or warning of a disaster when none exists and the likelihood of an evacuation of the casino is likely. Warnings of a disaster can include an explosion, natural disaster, manmade disaster, or a generalized alarm meant to signify danger. If charges for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a casino or other location are advanced, the prosecution must prove three elements beyond the shadow of a doubt. First, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant knowingly made a report or an alarm to warn of or against an impending disaster. Second, the prosecution must prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the individual knew or knew that there was a high likelihood that the information was false or without any factual basis. Third, the prosecution must prove that the defendant was aware that the untrue report was at least likely to result in the evacuation of the facility. It is not necessary for an actual evacuation of the casino or other facility to occur. The state must simply prove that a false report was made while knowing that the report was untrue and likely to result in an evacuation.
Felony Penalties Become More Severe for False Alarms that Cause Serious Bodily Injury or Death
All acts of allegedly pulling a fire alarm falsely are indictable offenses. Indictable offenses are New Jersey’s version of a felony. Because these are more serious indictable offenses all criminal proceedings are held in New Jersey Superior Court. By default, when no further consequences stem from the false alarm or false pulling of a firm alarm, this act is considered a third-degree indictable offense. A third-degree crime can be punished by a three to five year prison sentence. However, penalties become significantly more harsh if a serious bodily injury or death occurs as a consequence of the false alarm. False alarms that result in a serious bodily injury to another person are considered second-degree indictable offenses. A second degree-crime can be punished by a prison sentence of five to ten years along with significant monetary fines. If the false report is made during a declared county, state, or national emergency or if the false report leads to a fatality then first-degree criminal charges are appropriate. First-degree charges can, upon conviction, result in the imposition of a state prison sentence between 10 to 20 years and significant monetary penalties.
Are You Facing Allegations of Falsely Pulling a Fire Alarm in a New Jersey Casino
As discussed in the preceding paragraph, falsely pulling a fire alarm or otherwise making a false emergency report is an indictable offense and carries serious penalties. Even if you did not mean to pull the alarm or for others to be swept up in the surrounding circumstances prosecutors in New Jersey pursue potential crimes aggressively and, absent good reason to the contrary, will seek the maximum penalty under state law.
If you are facing the potential loss of your freedom and the stigma of a criminal conviction, an experienced and strategic criminal defense lawyer can make all the difference by fighting for you. To schedule a free and confidential criminal defense consultation, call (609) 625-3006 or contact us online today.