Believe it or not, people are being charged all the time with sight-seeing at the scene of an accident. Now, this is not what we think when you have a bunch of tourists around.
This is more where you have a situation where there's an emergency and people are coming on the scene or some reason. Either they're Lookie- Lou and want to check everything out, or maybe they have some sort of a job to do.
Maybe they're with the news media and they want to get in there and take a photograph. For whatever reason that people are coming on the scene of an accident, if you come on the scene of an accident, you're sight-seeing and you violate Penal Code §402, you're looking at up to six months in the County Jail. They'll arrest you, they'll put you on probation. They can place other terms and conditions on you if you violate Penal Code §402.
There are specific elements that have to be met by the prosecutors in order to get somebody for sight-seeing at an emergency. One of them is you are there, you saw something and you now come on the scene and you don't have a legitimate reason for being there other than to look, snoop, sight-see.
That's one of the elements they have to get. Then there has to be emergency personnel or police on the scene performing their duties, and now you're getting in their way – like if you're a knucklehead and park your car in front of a police vehicle that needs to go with somebody and get them to the hospital or maybe get in front of some other individual who is on-scene helping with the emergency.
Getting in the way of firefighters who are trying to put out a fire or a car fire. This could get you charged and convicted for sight-seeing at the scene of an emergency accident pursuant to Penal Code §402.
Defenses To Sight-Seeing At An Emergency Scene
There are defenses. If you happen to just stumble upon the scene or maybe there's a big mess on the freeway and you have nowhere else to go and you end up having to park your car or go into a certain area, or maybe you couldn't tell because it was such a mess.
They've got flares everywhere, there are cars all over the place and you didn't actually get on the scene intentionally, but you had no choice based on the circumstances that you were confronted with.
Also, if somebody were to accidentally come on the scene – walk into a location – and not intentionally get in the way of the police – then that would also be a defense.
Another big defense that I have utilized successfully in defending these cases where people are being arrested at the scene of an emergency or an accident or some other investigation and the police grab them is when the police are acting inappropriately.
They're not really in the performance of their duties. They're just acting like jerks trying to order everybody around, and some of the people are there lawfully and they don't do exactly what the police say fast enough, and so they arrest them and put them in the back of the car or maybe the person's relative or family member is being arrested by the police and they're trying to find out what's going on.
The bottom line is this. Everything has got to be going on lawfully for the police and the prosecutors in order to really get somebody for this sight-seeing at the scene of an emergency – Penal Code §402 violation.
Because if the police are not acting properly and there's not really an emergency and they're just acting like jerks late at night like in Hollywood for example, then people cannot be prosecuted for this crime and a lot of time I've seen these cases dismissed by the prosecutor because they realize they cannot meet the elements of the case.
But if you are charged and convicted of this crime, you could go to County Jail, so it's never a good idea to stop at the scene of an accident and get in the way of those individuals who are trying to help people out there in an emergency situation.
Negotiating With Prosecutor for Lesser Offense
So, knowing that that is the policy behind Penal Code §402, that gives you a good feel and a good vibe for whether or not you violated it and what I have you do is have you come in, we talk about it and we really assess whether you violated Penal Code §402 and you really were sight-seeing at the scene of an accident, getting in the way, being a looky-loo, blocking people from doing what it is that they do to save lives out there in Los Angeles, and if you don't fit this definition – if you don't meet this policy – then you should not be convicted of it.
We should be able to either get the case dismissed in front of a jury or convince the prosecutors to dismiss the charge, or we should be able to work out some lesser offense where you can get diversion and protect your record now and into the future.
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