In California, it is illegal to conceal, or attempt to conceal, and accidental death (PC 152).
To by guilty of penal code 152, a defendant must have actively participated in concealing the accidental death (PC 152(a)).
To actively conceal an accidental death means to directly impede the ability of authorities or family members to discover the body (PC 152(a)(1) Abbrev.), or to directly destroy or suppress evidence of the body of a deceased person.
PC 152 applies to active concealment of evidence that an accidental death has occurred, even if the defendant does not conceal the body.
Example: David slips and falls at Goliath’s house while Goliath is out of town. David dies from his injuries. When Goliath returns from out of town, he conceals David’s body. Thereafter, Goliath tells his friend Methuselah what happened, and Goliath asks Methuselah to help clean David's blood from the floor where David fell. Methuselah never sees David’s body. Result: Both Goliath and Methuselah may be charged with penal code 152.
No Duty to Disclose: A defendant does not have a duty to report an accidental death that he does not actively conceal, unless he either caused the accidental death, or he is closely related to the decedent (i.e., parent – child, husband – wife, etc.).
Example: David is driving under the influence (DUI). David strikes and kills a pedestrian while David is DUI. David drive away without reporting the death: Result: David is guilty of DUI causing Death, Hit and Run, and possibly Murder in the Second Degree, but he is not guilty of PC 152 because he made no effort to conceal the death even though he caused the death.
PC 152 Penalties
Concealing or hiding the evidence of an accidental death, including the body of the decedent, is classified as a misdemeanor crime. If found guilty of PC 152, the defendant could face up to a year in the county jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence is a period of supervision, as opposed to an actual jail sentence. A probation sentence is allowed in PC 152 cases, but a probation sentence is not guaranteed.
Whether a defendant receives a jail sentence, or a probation sentence depends largely on the facts of the case, the sophistication level of the concealment of the decedent, the defendant’s criminal history, and more.
Additional Punishment: In addition to a possible jail or probation sentence, if found guilty of concealing an accidental death (PC 152), the defendant could face other direct and indirect consequences, including military service consequences, immigration consequences, professional licensing consequences, criminal protective orders (CPO), civil lawsuits, court fees and fines, restitution orders, and more.
PC 152 Defense
Common defense related to the crime of concealing an accidental death include illegal search and seizure, duress, mistake of fact, alibi defense, coerced confession, and more.
Example: David slips and falls at Goliath’s house while Goliath is out of town. David dies from his injuries. When Goliath returns, he hides David’s body, but only because Goliath is threatened with great bodily harm to not report the accidental death by David’s mafia pals. Result: Goliath might have a defense of duress when he is apprehended and charged with PC 152.
No Duty to Report: The defendant does not have a duty to report an accidental death in most circumstances. The crime of PC 152 is charged when the defendant takes some “overt” act to conceal the accidental death.
Example: John and Mark are walking on the railroad tracks. John and Mark don’t notice that a train is fast approaching their location. At the last minute, John jumps off the track before the train hits him. Mark is not so fortunate. John decides to not report the accidental death: Result: John has no duty to report an accidental death that he does not cause; therefore, no PC 152 charges should be levied against him.
If you or a loved one is charged with concealing an accidental death, or PC 152, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our team of experienced criminal defense lawyers have successfully handled hundreds of felony and misdemeanor cases in the Inland Empire, including Apple Valley, Hesperia, Ontario, Redlands, Eastvale, Fontana, and more. Call today!