Sightseeing at the Scene of an Emergency under Penal Code 402(a) PC involves staying in the vicinity of an incident for a period that is longer than necessary. This also involves staying in the area for a period of time that prevents emergency officials from properly performing their job to help those who are in need. A charge is usually given because the person irritated someone in law enforcement on the scene or was in someone else’s way who was trying to offer assistance, such as a firefighter or paramedic. Many people who are accused of this crime are done so unfairly simply because they are bystanders and trying to determine what happened. However, if the defendant did try to get too close to the scene of the incident and did not move when asked, then the charge is legitimate and can be tried in court. Attorneys can use the defense of the defendant being a bystander in order to have the charges dropped or reduced to keep the defendant from serving time in jail.
There are a few elements that make up the legal definition of sightseeing at the scene of an emergency. One component is that the person stopped at the scene intentionally and either waited in a personal vehicle or got out of the vehicle to determine what was taking place at the time of the incident. Another element is that the person stopped to get involved with the emergency responders who were at the scene, trying to offer assistance, obtain information about the emergency, or taking pictures of the incident for personal gain. Sightseeing can occur when the defendant is in the way and prevents emergency officials from reaching the scene of the emergency or when the defendant is present at a scene and performing duties that are not a part of the person’s employment.
In order to understand more about who is guilty and who is not guilty after being charged with sightseeing at the scene of an emergency, it’s important to learn about a few examples. A man sees an accident on the road and pulls over to the side to see what happened. His vehicle is in the way of emergency responders trying to get to the scene. The man would be guilty of sightseeing because he prevented responders from reaching the people involved in the accident.
Another example involves a woman who is a news reporter and is sent to an active situation by her employer. When she arrives at the scene, she sees an ambulance outside the home of an actor and learns that the actor has overdosed. As the woman tries to run to the home to take pictures, she hits the arm of a responder, causing him to drop equipment on the ground. Even though the woman did cause the item to fall by bumping into the responder, she likely wouldn’t be charged with sightseeing because she was taking pictures as a part of her job and was asked to be there.
When a parent sees that there is a police presence at home and moves around law enforcement to see if children in the home are alright, that parent usually isn’t charged. The reason is that the parent is only trying to ensure that the children were alright and were not frightened by the activity taking place by the officers.
In California, sightseeing at the scene of an emergency is considered a misdemeanor. With the proper legal assistance, most defendants do not spend time in jail. However, there could be fines, community service, or a term of probation as a part of the sentence delivered to the defendant if the person is found guilty.