BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                                                                  SB 333
                                                                  Page  1

          Date of Hearing:  June 11, 2013
          Counsel:       Sandy Uribe

                                 Tom Ammiano, Chair

                     SB 333 (Lieu) - As Amended:  April 16, 2013

           SUMMARY  :  Makes a person convicted of filing a false emergency  
          report liable for the costs of the emergency response.   
          Specifically,  this bill  :  

          1)Specifies that any person convicted of filing a false  
            emergency report is liable to a public agency for the  
            reasonable costs of the emergency response by that agency.

          2)Specifies that nothing in these provisions precludes  
            punishment under any other provision of law which provides for  
            greater punishment.

           EXISTING LAW  : 

          1)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  

          2)Makes it a misdemeanor to telephone the 911 emergency line  
            with the intent to annoy or harass another person.  Punishment  
            is 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.)

          3)Imposes liability for all reasonable costs incurred by any  
            unnecessary emergency response when a person is convicted of  
            use of the 911 emergency line with intent to harass.  [Penal  
            Code Section 653x(c).]

          4)States any person who knowingly allows the use or who uses the  
            911 telephone system for any reason other than because of an  


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            emergency, as specified, is guilty of an infraction.  [Penal  
            Code Section 653y(a).]

          5)Expresses the unequivocal intent of the People of the State of  
            California that all persons who suffer losses as a result of  
            criminal activity shall have the right to restitution from the  
            persons convicted of the crimes for losses they suffer.   
            Restitution shall be ordered from the convicted persons in  
            every case, regardless of the sentence or disposition imposed,  
            in which a crime victim suffers a loss, unless compelling and  
            extraordinary reasons exist to the contrary. [Cal. Const.,  
            Art. I, sec. 28(b).]

          6)Requires full victim restitution for economic losses  
            determined by the court.  [Penal Code Section 1202.4.]

          7)Defines a "victim" for purposes of restitution, as including  
            any corporation, business trust, estate, trust, partnership,  
            association, joint venture, government, governmental  
            subdivision, agency, or instrumentality, or any other legal or  
            commercial entity when that entity is a direct victim of a  
            crime.  [Penal Code Section 1202.4(k).]

          8)Requires the sentencing court to consider in probation cases  
            whether the defendant shall make restitution to a public  
            agency for the costs of an emergency response as a condition  
            of probation.  [Penal Code Section 1203.1(e).]

           FISCAL EFFECT  :   Unknown

           COMMENTS  :   

           1)Author's Statement  :  According to the author, "False emergency  
            911 calls have become increasingly common in the past few  
            months as they involve entertainers, celebrities and other  
            public officials.  Celebrities get the public's attention but  
            they are not the only ones who have been targeted; the U.S.  
            Coast Guard, many private individuals, and local law  
            enforcement officials have also fallen victim to the swatting  

          "Swatting not only stretches our local emergency response  
            capacity but also endangers victims by placing them in  
            potential confrontation with police.  Several officers have  
            already been injured responding to swatting incidents.


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          "Swatting also is a costly waste of precious law enforcement  
            resources.  Law enforcement takes every emergency reported and  
            uses its resources to maximize public safety.  But at the time  
            a false report is given, law enforcement is unaware that it is  
            a hoax -- until they get to the scene of the alleged crime.  

          "Given recent tragedies involving gun violence nationwide,  
            pranks that divert public safety resources are far from  
            harmless and, in fact, are the last thing needed; they must be  

          "This bill seeks to create a greater deterrent and provide law  
            enforcement with the ability to help recoup expenses within  
            the criminal case, which reportedly can run as high as $10,000  
            per incident."

           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)Recoupment of Costs by Government Agencies  :  A government  
            agency may qualify as a direct victim of the defendant's crime  
            for purposes of victim restitution.  [Penal Code Section  
            1202.4(k)(2).]  But case law has attributed a precise meaning  
            to the phrase "direct victim," for purposes of the restitution  
            statutes.  These statutes limit restitution to "'entities  
            against which the [defendant's] crimes had been committed'  
            -that is, entities that are the 'immediate objects of the  
            [defendant's] offenses.'"  [People v. Runyan (2012) 54 Cal.4th  
            849, quoting People v. Martinez (2005) 36 Cal.4th 384, at p.  

          Thus, for example, a defrauded government agency is a direct  
            victim entitled to restitution for its losses.  [People v Crow  
            (1993) 6 Cal.4th 952, 957 (welfare fraud); People v Akins  
            (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 1376, 1385-1389, (same).]

          However, governmental units are often found to be indirect  
            victims not entitled to restitution.  The courts have  


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            recognized that public agencies are not directly victimized  
            for purposes of restitution simply because they spend money to  
            investigate crimes or apprehend criminals. [People v.  
            Martinez, supra, 36 Cal.4th 384, 393-394; People v. Ozkan  
            (2004) 124 Cal.App.4th 1072, 1077.]  For example, in Martinez,  
            the Supreme Court held that the Department of Toxic Substance  
            Control was not the "immediate object" of the defendant's  
            conviction of the attempted manufacture of methamphetamine  
            and, therefore, was not a direct victim entitled to  
            restitution for its mandatory costs of cleaning up the  
            defendant's illegal drug lab.  (Martinez, supra, 36 Cal.4th  
            384, 393-394.)

          Arguably, the police or fire department responding to a prank  
            swatting call is not the direct victim of the crime.  Rather,  
            the individual who is the subject of the hoax may be seen as  
            the direct victim.  If so, then the responding governmental  
            agency would not be eligible to recoup its costs under victim  
            restitution statutes.

          Nevertheless, other statutes often provide governmental agencies  
            separate remedies to obtain reimbursement for expenditures  
            attributable to a defendant's conduct.  For example, Health  
            and Safety Code Section 13009 imposes liability for  
            fire-fighting expenses when a person negligently or  
            intentionally sets a fire.  Similarly, Health and Safety Code  
            Section 11470.2 allows a government agency to recoup clean-up  
            costs when a person is convicted of manufacturing or  
            cultivating a controlled substance.

            In relation to swatting, Penal Code Section 653x(c) already  
            imposes liability for the reasonable costs incurred by any  
            unnecessary emergency response.  This bill imposes the same  
            liability in cases that are prosecuted under Penal Code  
            Section 148.3 (filing a false emergency report), rather than  
            Penal Code Section 653x (use of 911 with intent to harass).

           4)Argument in Support  :  The  California State Sheriff's  
            Association  states, "SB 333 would help reduce incidents of  
            swatting by allowing law enforcement the ability to recoup  
            expenses for responding to prank reports."

           5)Argument in Opposition  :  According to the  California Attorneys  
            for Criminal Justice , "SB 333 would add subsection (d) to  
            Section 148.3 providing for restitution for the reasonable  


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            cost of the response to a false report of an emergency.   
            Please note that Section 653x(c), which can also be charged  
            alternatively in almost any case involving the false report of  
            an emergency, currently provides for full restitution if there  
            is an actual emergency response.  Be that as it may, this type  
            of restitution provision is totally unnecessary in any Penal  
            Code section.  Ample case law exists that states persons who  
            commit crimes are financially liable for all of the reasonable  
            and natural damages suffered by any victim as the result of  
            that criminal conduct.  Subsection (d) adds nothing to current  

           6)Related Legislation  :  AB 47 (Gatto) increases the fines and  
            penalties for making a prank 911 phone call resulting in the  
            dispatch of service personnel.  AB 47 is pending referral by  
            the Senate Rules Committee. 

           7)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  
               for any reason other than an emergency.


          Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department (Sponsor)
          Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs
          California Police Chiefs Association
          California State Sheriff's Association
          City of Beverly Hills
          Los Angeles Police Protective League
          Riverside Sheriffs' Association



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          California Attorneys for Criminal Justice

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