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I. PC 218: Train Wrecking Laws

Legal Definition: “Every person who unlawfully throws out a switch, removes a rail, or places any obstruction on any railroad with the intention of derailing any passenger, freight or another train, car, or engine, or who unlawfully places any dynamite or other explosive material or any other obstruction upon or near the track of any railroad with the intention of blowing up or derailing any such train, car or engine, or who unlawfully sets fire to any railroad bridge or trestle, over which any such train, car or engine must pass with the intention of wrecking such train, car or engine, is guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for life without the possibility of parole.”

To be found guilty under PC 218 the prosecution must prove that you intentionally:

  1. Unlawfully threw a switch, removed a rail, placed dynamite or other explosive material on any other obstruction upon or near the track of any railroad;


  1. You unlawfully set fire to any railroad bridge, or trestle, over which any such train, car, or engine must pass;


  1. You acted with the intent to blow up or derail any passenger, freight, or another train, car, or engine.

II. What does this mean?

A violation of Train Wrecking is one of the most serious charges you can face in the State of California. Also, do note that this is an either/or crime. This means you can violate this section by removing items such as a switch or rail, or place dynamite on the train, at the same time you can be charged for trying to set fire to the train, with the intent to derail or blow up the train. This is similar to a charge under Arson, except where it takes place. If the arson takes place on a train in order to derail the train, then it’s the life-altering charge of Train Wrecking.

Also, this is just for passenger-type trains that people use for transportation. This also applies to trains without any passengers in them, that are only carrying freight. So in essence, the crime is no different if there are any passengers or not, it’s still the same crime and same punishment.

In addition, there must be intent to commit the act of setting that fire – in order to be proven guilty of this crime.

III. Penalties

A conviction for PC 218, Train Wrecking, carries with it the punishment of Life in Prison, without the possibility of parole. In other words, you would not return outside in the free world again. Needless to say, this is a straight felony, where no probation and no misdemeanor conviction can happen.

This is a strike offense under the California Three Strikes law, but it is not a Sex Offense under PC 290. You could also face a loss of your Professional License if convicted, and if you are not a legal resident, you would face Deportation in Immigration Court since this offense is an aggravated felony under Federal Law, and maybe a crime involving moral turpitude.

IV. Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Violation of Rights
  3. Insufficient Evidence
  4. Duress

You cannot be found guilty of a crime if you acted under Duress. A person acts under duress if, because of a threat or menace, you believed that you or someone else’s life would be in immediate danger if you refused a demand or request to commit the crimes. Here, your family could be kidnapped and threatened if you did not assist in setting a fire to a train by someone who took your family captive, your family would die. That threat would act as a defense to any Train Wrecking crime you committed, meaning you would be found not guilty of this crime.

Further, if you are found to have set a fire on a train, there is a requirement for intent. Here, it must be shown that you had set the fire with the intent to derail the train, to be found guilty of this offense. Failing to show your intent, would mean that there is insufficient evidence to prove you guilty of this charge. Your Criminal Defense Attorney can then argue that the elements are not met, and your case should be dismissed.

V. Call Today

A conviction for Train Wrecking can end a person’s freedom. It is one of the most serious crimes in California, outside of Murder or Treason. It is something that must be heavily defended against. Our Ontario PC 218 attorney has successfully defended many people charged with crimes throughout the entire Inland Empire. Call your local Ontario Criminal Defense Attorney today at the Inland Empire Defense 909-939-7126. Located in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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