PC 591.5: Damaging a Communication Device with Intent to Prevent Help Laws
Legal Definition: A person who unlawfully and maliciously removes, injures, destroys, damages, or obstructs the use of any wireless communication device with the intent to prevent the use of the device to summon assistance or notify law enforcement or any public safety agency of a crime is guilty of a misdemeanor.
For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 591.5, the prosecution must show that:
1A. You unlawfully took down/removed/damaged/obstructed/disconnected/cut part of a telegraph/telephone/cable television/electrical line;
1B. You unlawfully severed a wire of a telegraph/telephone/cable television/electrical line;
1C. You unlawfully made an unauthorized connection with part of a line used to conduct electricity;
2. You did so maliciously.
What does this mean?
Someone acts maliciously when he or she intentionally does a wrongful act or when he or she acts with the unlawful intent to annoy or injure someone else. This charge most commonly happens in False Imprisonment or Domestic Violence type cases. In those heated moments, the significant other reaches for their phone to call the police, and you stop them. You take their phone, smash it, or just keep it and leave the scene. Now, you are preventing your significant other from reporting your crimes to the police, which is the basis for this additional charge.
This can also happen if you tell your significant other that you have committed a crime, and when they attempt to contact police to arrest you, you break their phone. In a case like this, you could also be charged with Vandalism for destroying their phone. In essence, this charge generally is always stemming from another criminal offense first.
It also does not matter if it is your own wireless device that is damaged to prevent help. All that is required is any wireless communication device is destroyed, whether it be someone else’s, or your device, so long as the intent is to maliciously prevent a report made to police.
Some types of communication devices that get damaged in PC 591.5 cases include:
- Cell phones,
- iPads or Tablets,
- Beepers, and
- Wireless landlines
A violation under PC 591.5 is a misdemeanor offense only, meaning you cannot be sentenced to State Prison if you are convicted of this crime. However, as a misdemeanor offense, you could be sentenced to upwards of one year in County Jail if you are convicted. You would be required to serve 50% of that time in custody. You could also receive hefty fines if you destroyed the device, and be forced to pay the victim, through restitution, for the damages to their device.
This is not a Three Strike offense, since it is not a felony, and it is not the type of charge that is generally held against you for Professional Licensing or Immigration cases. However, a misdemeanor on your record at such a young age can affect your ability to work in the future and can slow down any application to a Professional job, by be required to list this conviction on your application.
The intent is an extreme aspect of the elements of this charge. For example, you cannot simply be charged because you damaged or destroyed some person’s wireless device in general. It is a required element that the reason you destroyed or damaged that device is to prevent report or help from police. If you simply damage a device, for no reason other than anger, then you would be charged with Vandalism, not PC 591.5. The person must be actually attempting to get help, for you to be interfering with that help, under this section.
False accusations can also happen here during domestic disputes. Thousands of times, during an argument, people say and do things they do not believe or do not mean. People usually are not thinking straight and speak out of anger rather than sound logic and reason. If police are called, and your significant other really does not have a strong enough case for you to be arrested for a crime, they could instead add that you destroyed their cell phone, or at least took it away from them to prevent them from calling the police. This could be a complete lie, but it is used to essentially pile on top of you because of an argument that happened. Because these charges are usually just added on to the main charge, lies about this happening tend to not be investigated properly by police. They take the word of the alleged victim, because despite the job of the police to serve and protect, their main goal when they are called, is to arrest people.
Being charged under PC 591.5 can significantly impact your future, potentially leading to the loss of freedom due to jail time. Often, these cases are lightly investigated and rely heavily on the victim’s statements rather than sound judgment and reason, resulting in false accusations.
Our PC 591.5 Ontario Attorney at Inland Empire Criminal Defense has extensive experience handling cases involving damaging wireless communication devices. We have successfully represented clients in a variety of scenarios, whether the charge is an attachment to other allegations or a standalone case.
If you’re facing charges under PC 591.5, it’s essential to have a skilled attorney who understands the intricacies of these cases. We offer a free initial consultation and are committed to being available 24/7 to answer your questions and provide expert legal advice.
For reliable and experienced legal representation, don’t hesitate to contact Inland Empire Criminal Defense. Call us today at 909-281-0465 for a free consultation. Our office is conveniently located in Ontario, CA, and we are ready to assist you in navigating through these challenging legal matters.
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