California Penal Code 404 PC — Participating in a Riot

| Gazette, Police Blotter | April 4, 2014

robin sandovalBy Robin Sandoval

Emotion can be a powerful force, both for good and for ill. Throughout history, instances have taken place that have evinced emotion within a given population that has caused them to act in ways that changed the course of history – (beware the ides of March, Caesar!) or at least the course of their own lives.

In Los Angeles, the citizens have been moved emotionally many times. Two most noteworthy occasions were the Watts riots of 1965 and the 1992 “Rodney King Riots.” The results of a riot are often devastating, both in property damage and in personal injuries (including deaths). And they are detrimental to the peace and security of the citizens in or around the areas where the riots take place.

Rioting is covered under California Penal Code 404 PC “participating in a riot.” A riot is described under the penal code  as “any use of force or violence, disturbing the public peace, or any threat to use force or violence, if accompanied by immediate power of execution, by two or more persons together, and without authority of law.”

So, what does all this mean? Basically, if two or more people together cause violence, threaten to cause violence, or cause a disturbance, those people run the risk of being charged with violation of PC 404. It’s worth it to note that peaceful protests, if they evolve into any of the above conditions, can be viewed as rioting as well.


Participating in a riot in the State of California is a misdemeanor, with a possible penalty of a $1,000 fine (maximum) and up to one year in county jail. Even though the minimum amount of people involved for it to be considered “rioting” is two, most of the time riots include a much, much larger group of people. As a result, judges often dole out probation to individuals charged with participating in a riot, in an attempt to reduce a very large influx of inmates to the already over-crowded jail system.

It is also illegal, as per California Penal Code 404.6 PC, to incite a riot. Inciting a riot is defined as: “urging people to engage in rioting, to commit acts of force or violence, or to burn or destroy property.” It is not necessary for the instigator to participate in the riot to be charged with violating California Penal Code 404.6 PC.

In order to keep a volatile gathering from becoming a full-blown riot, there are a few stopgap laws in place. For instance, California Penal Codes 407 and 408, “unlawful assembly” covers instances where two or more people are gathered together to do something illegal and/or to act in a boisterous, tumultuous manner.

There is also California Penal Codes 409 and 416 PC, “failure to disperse.” Violations of these codes are cases in which individuals partaking in unlawful assemblies (or riots, for that matter) are told to vacate the area by police but fail to do so. In California Penal Codes 407, 408, 409, and 416, individuals who are in violation can be arrested by law enforcement. When this occurs, it is the hope that the crowd thins, loses its will, and a riot does not ensue.

Robin Sandoval is a California Licensed Bail Bondsman and owner of SCV Bail Bonds. Robin writes blogs and articles to help increase community awareness of the bail industry. SCV Bail Bonds is located at 23734 Valencia Blvd., #300 in Santa Clarita. If you have questions or would like to suggest a topic, email robin@scvbailbonds.com, visit www.scvbailbonds.com or call 661-299-2245.

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