BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:  April 16, 2013
          Counsel:       Sandy Uribe


                         ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON PUBLIC SAFETY
                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                     AB 47 (Gatto) - As Amended:  March 13, 2013
                       As Proposed to be Amended in Committee
           
           
           SUMMARY  :  Increases the fines and penalties for making a prank  
          911 phone call resulting in the dispatch of service personnel.   
          Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Provides that any person who calls the 911 telephone system to  
            dispatch a police, sheriff, fire department, or emergency  
            medical service response to a residence or place of business  
            where there is no emergency, with the intent to annoy or  
            harass another person, and if police, sheriff, fire  
            department, or emergency medical service personnel dispatched  
            as a result of the telephone call, is guilty of a misdemeanor  
            punishable by a fine of not more than $2,000, by imprisonment  
            in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that  
            fine and imprisonment. 

          2)Any person who calls the 911 telephone system to dispatch a  
            police, sheriff, fire department, or emergency medical service  
            personnel response to a residence or place of business where  
            there is no emergency, with the intent to annoy or harass  
            another person, and if police, sheriff, fire department, or  
            emergency medical service personnel are dispatched and any  
            person sustains bodily injury as a result of conduct arising  
            out of and in the course of the police, sheriff, fire  
            department, or emergency medical service personnel being  
            dispatched to the residence or place of business, is guilty of  
            an offense punishable by a fine of not more than $10,000, by  
            imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or  
            pursuant to Penal Code Section 1170(h) for 16 months, or two  
            or three years, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

          3)Specifies that nothing in this section precludes punishment  
            under any other provision of law which provides for greater  
            punishment, including involuntary manslaughter.









                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  2

          4)Defines "emergency" as "any condition in which emergency  
            services will result in the saving of a life, a reduction in  
            the destruction of property, quicker apprehension of  
            criminals, or assistance with potentially life-threatening  
            medical problems, a fire, a need for rescue, an imminent  
            potential crime, or a similar situation."

          5)Requires a convicted defendant to be liable for all reasonable  
            costs, including property damage, incurred by an unnecessary  
            police, sheriff, fire department, or emergency medical service  
            response.

          6)Provides that this section does not apply to telephone calls  
            made in good faith.

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)Provides that it is a misdemeanor to telephone the 911  
            emergency line with the intent to annoy or harass another  
            person, punishable by a fine of not more than $1,000; by  
            imprisonment in a county jail for not more than six months; or  
            by both the fine and imprisonment.  Specifies that intent to  
            annoy or harass is established by proof of repeated calls over  
            a period of time, however short, that are unreasonable under  
            the circumstances.   (Penal Code Section 653x.)

          2)States any person who knowingly allows the use or who uses the  
            911 telephone system for any reason other than because of an  
            emergency, as specified, is guilty of an infraction.  For a  
            first violation, the violator obtains a warning.   Subsequent  
            violations are punishable as follows, but subject to reduction  
            for inability to pay: 

             a)   For a second violation, a fine of $50.

             b)   For a third violation, a fine of $100.

             c)   For a fourth or subsequent violation, a fine of $250.   
               [Penal Code Section 653y(a).]

          3)States the parent or legal guardian having custody and control  
            of an un-emancipated minor who violates this section shall be  
            jointly and severally liable with the minor for the fine  
            imposed pursuant to this section.  [Penal Code Section  
            653y(b).]








                                                                  AB 47
                                                                 Page  3


          4)Provides that it is a misdemeanor to knowingly report a false  
            emergency, but that this conduct is a felony if the offense  
            results in great bodily injury or death.  (Penal Code Section  
            148.3.)

          5)Provides that it is a misdemeanor to knowingly and maliciously  
            interrupt or otherwise interfere with the transmission of  
            emergency-related communication over an amateur or a citizen's  
            band radio frequency.  Provides that it is a felony if this  
            offense results in serious bodily injury or property loss in  
            excess of $10,000.  (Penal Code Section 653t.)

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "There has been  
            an alarming rise in the crime known as 'swatting' - a  
            malicious prank that tricks emergency service providers into  
            dispatching law enforcement emergency response teams to  
            locations where no crime is occurring.  The name is derived  
            from several successful pranks in which SWAT (Special Weapons  
            and Tactics) teams were dispatched as a result of calls  
            claiming there was a hostage situation, or worse, at a  
            specified location.  These pranks are a serious drain of  
            public safety resources away from real emergencies, and  
            dispatching armed law enforcement officers to fake emergencies  
            places the public and law enforcement at significant risk.

          "Victims of these dangerous pranks include celebrities such as  
            Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber and ordinary households like  
            the Bates family of Lake Forest, Calif.  Noted political  
            bloggers Patrick Frey and Erick Erickson have also been  
            victims of 'swatting,' creating a dangerous precedent for  
            targeting individuals merely for expressing their political  
            beliefs.

          "Recently, the Los Angeles Times has reported how several law  
            enforcement officers have already been injured responding to  
            such calls, and officials including Los Angeles Police Chief  
            Charlie Beck fear that it's only a matter of time before  
            events turn deadly.

          "AB 47 seeks to prevent these types of malicious and dangerous  








                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  4

            'swatting' calls by increasing the fines and penalties for  
            anyone who makes a call to 9-1-1 resulting in the deployment  
            of emergency response personnel when no emergency exists.

          "Legislation in the state of Michigan signed by Governor Rick  
            Snyder in 2012 outlined new, enhanced penalties for  
            'swatting.'  The Michigan law calls for up to 10 years of jail  
            time for making a false report and up to 15 years if a person  
            is killed, sentences much longer than what AB 47 proposes."

           2)Celebrity "Swatting"  :  According to a recent CNN report,  
            "swatting" is essentially a prank call which "earned the  
            nickname 'swatting' because law enforcement agencies sometimes  
            would send SWAT teams to respond to the false emergencies."   
            These "pranks have sent police rushing with guns drawn to a  
            growing A-list [sic] of celebrity homes in recent weeks."    
            (.)

           3)Current Law  :  There are currently several statutory provisions  
            which could include the prosecution of prank calls.  Penal  
            Code Section 653x makes it a misdemeanor to call the 911  
            system with the intent to annoy or harass another person.   
            Additionally, Penal Code Section 653y targets non-emergency  
            inquiry calls, but could include prank calls.  Finally, Penal  
            Code Section 148.3 makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly report  
            a false emergency; except when the report of the false  
            emergency results in great bodily injury or death, in which  
            case the offense is treated as a felony.

          This bill adds an additional element to prove in the prosecution  
            of "swatting" calls, namely that police, sheriff, fire  
            department, or emergency medical service personnel must have  
            been dispatched as a result of the telephone call.  When this  
            element is proved, the higher penalties specified in this bill  
            will apply.  
           
           4)Existing Penalty Assessments :  There are penalty assessments  
            and fees assessed on the base fine for a crime.  Assuming a  
            defendant was fined $10,000 as the maximum fine provided by  
            this bill, the following penalty assessments would be imposed  
            pursuant to the Penal Code and the California Government Code:

          Base Fine:                         $10,000 









                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  5

            Penal Code 1464 assessment:                  $10,000($10 for  
            every $10)
            Penal Code 1465.7 assessment:                   2,000(20%  
            surcharge)
            Penal Code 1465.8 assessment:                        40($40  
            fee per criminal offense)
            Government Code 70372 assessment:               5,000($5 for  
            every $10)
            Government Code 70373 assessment:                    30($30  
            for felony or misdo.)
            Government Code 76000 assessment:               7,000($7 for  
            every $10)
            Government Code 76000.5 assessment:             2,000($2 for  
            every $10) 
            Government Code 76104.6 assessment:             1,000($1 for  
            every $10)
            Government Code 76104.7 assessment              4,000($4 for  
            every $10)

            Total Fine with Assessments:           $41,070  
             
           5)911 Generally  :  The 911 telephone system was established as  
            the primary emergency telephone number in California by  
            Chapter 1005, Statutes of 1972, and is paid for by a statewide  
            surcharge on each telephone bill.  Telephone calls to 911 made  
            from landline telephones are routed to local city or county  
            communication centers.  All 911 calls made from cellular  
            phones are routed to a California Highway Patrol communication  
            center.   

          6)Argument in Support  :  The  City of Thousand Oaks  writes, "As  
            one of the 'safest cities' in the nation, we recently  
            experienced an incident involving a prank call.  The local 911  
            dispatch received a call to respond to a hoax hostage  
            situation at a local hotel on January 2, 2013.  The caller  
            alleged having guns and explosives and made threats of injury.  
             The erroneous call had tremendous impact, including:

             a)   "The cost and time by for multi-agency response incurred  
               by a number of public safety agencies:

               i)     "Thousand Oaks Police Department

                  (1)       "Patrol 









                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  6

                  (2)       "SWAT

                  (3)       "Bomb Squad

                  (4)       "K-9 unit

               ii)    "Ventura County Fire District

                  (1)       "Fire Crew

                  (2)       "Hazmat Team

                  (3)       "EMS

               iii)   "Neighboring Police Agencies

                  (1)       "Los Angeles County Sheriff

                  (2)       "California State University bomb squad

               iv)    "Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

                  (1)       "Ventura County agents

                  (2)       "Los Angeles County agents

                  (3)       "Explosives team

             b)   "The reduction of public safety resources and response  
               time for a real emergency situation.

             c)   "The on-going cost and time by public safety agencies  
               (county, regional, state, out-of-state, and federal  
               agencies) to investigate and process reports after the  
               incident.

             d)   "Loss of revenue by the affected business owner and  
               surrounding businesses during the time of the bogus  
               incident due to evacuation and street closures.

            "The City hopes that an increase in penalties would strongly  
            dissuade future abuse from occurring."

           7)Argument in Opposition  :  According to the  California Attorneys  
            for Criminal Justices  , "This legislation is unnecessary, as  








                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  7

            existing law more than adequately addresses this type of  
            behavior, and provides a more effective method of obtaining  
            restitution for the actual cost of unnecessary emergency  
            response.  This legislation appears to be a reaction to the so  
            called 'SWATing' incidents (where pranksters call 911 making  
            false allegations to have law enforcement dispatched to  
            celebrity's mansions) that have recently made headlines.  As  
            such, it would appear to only have an impact on privileged  
            population.

          "Existing law, as codified in Penal Code Sections 653x and 653y,  
            provides appropriate misdemeanor penalties for anyone who  
            telephones 911 with the intent to annoy or harass another  
            person.  These sections provide penalties for this type of  
            conduct whether there is an actual emergency response or not.   
            More importantly, Section 653x(c) renders an offender liable  
            for all reasonable costs incurred by any unnecessary emergency  
            response.  All that proposed section 653.01 adds to existing  
            law is a slight increase in the maximum possible misdemeanor  
            penalty 'if police are dispatched as a result of the telephone  
            call,' and a potential $10,000.00 fine.  This is unnecessary  
            as Section 653x already penalizes the offender whether police  
            are dispatched or not.  The only purpose of the fine would  
            appear to be an attempt at deterrence.  However, that effort  
            will most certainly be nugatory.  Section 653x provides for  
            full restitution if there is an actual emergency response,  
            which is not mentioned in proposed Section 653.01."

           8)Related Legislation  :  SB 333 (Lieu) makes a person convicted  
            of filing a false emergency report liable for the cost of the  
            response.  SB 333 is pending hearing by the Senate  
            Appropriations Committee.

           9)Prior Legislation  :  

             a)   AB 2741 (Cannella), Chapter 262, Statutes of 1994, made  
               it a misdemeanor to telephone the 911 emergency system with  
               the intent to annoy or harass another person.

             b)   AB 911 (Longville), Chapter 295, Statutes of 2004,  
               created a new infraction for using the 911 telephone system  
               for purposes other than an emergency, as defined.

             c)   AB 1976 (Benoit), Chapter 89, Statutes of 2008,  
               increased the penalties for knowingly using the 911 system  








                                                                  AB 47
                                                                  Page  8

               for any reason other than an emergency.

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
          
          California Ambulance Association
          California Statewide Law Enforcement Association
          City of Thousand Oaks
          League of California Cities
          San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office

           Opposition 
           
          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice
          California Public Defenders Association
          Taxpayers for Improving Public Safety
           

          Analysis Prepared by  :    Sandy Uribe / PUB. S. / (916) 319-3744