Unlawful communication with an inmate or prisoner is a crime in California (PC 4570). The law forbids communication with an inmate in court as well as communication with an inmate in jail or prison without the permission of the jail or prison warden or court without permission from the deputy in charge of the inmate (i.e., court deputy, correctional officer, etc.).
Note: Per penal code 4570, unlawful communication with an inmate may be accomplished either verbally, or non-verbally, such as talking to an inmate, waiving, gesturing, or signaling to an inmate, or passing of written notes. Also, unlawful communication may be accomplished by third party.
Example: In criminal court, David waives ‘hello’ to his friend, Goliath. Goliath is in custody and waiting for his case to be called by the judge. Both David and Goliath are warned by the court’s deputy not to attempt communication with each other, but neither David, nor Goliath, stop communicating with each other. Result: Both David and Goliath may be charged with PC 4570.
Example II: David is in criminal court waiting for his son’s case to be called by the judge. David’s son is in custody. When David sees his son brought out by the custody deputy, David tries to waive to his son. David’s son does not attempt communication with his dad. Result: David may be charged with violating PC 664/4570 (Attempting Communication with an Inmate).
Example III: David’s son, Goliath, is charged with robbery. Goliath is in custody, and he is represented by his criminal defense attorney, Methuselah. David gives Methuselah a note for David to pass to Goliath in court. Methuselah gives the unauthorized note to David as David sits in criminal court waiting for his case to be called by the judge. Result: Both David and Methuselah may be charged with a violation of PC 4570. Goliath should not be charged with a violation of PC 4570 under this example.
Lawyer Communication: Communication with an inmate is unlawful when the communication occurs between an inmate and a person not authorized to communicate with the inmate, such as spectators in court, other inmates in court, and persons who are visiting other inmates in jail or prison. There are exceptions to the “no communication with an inmate rule” for judges and attorneys who obviously need to talk to criminal defendants at court hearings. These persons are not expressly listed in PC 4570, but they nevertheless have implied permission to talk with the inmates in court.
Note: Communication between inmates is not allowed in transit to or from court or other jail. Communication is also not allowed between inmates as they sit in criminal court. Otherwise, there is no violation of PC 4570 when inmates talk to each other (i.e., jail inmates and prisoners are not generally forbidden from talking to one another while in jail or prison.
Work Release is Jail: For purposes of PC 4570, work release and prison forestry camp are both considered jail. In other words, a person who attempts to contact or communicate with a person who is serving a work release sentence or forestry camp sentence (fire camp), is in violation of PC 4570.
Deputy’s Warning: In almost all cases, the deputy in charge of the inmate or prisoner will first warn non-inmates to not talk to inmates before citing the non-inmate for a PC 4570 violation on a second offense.
Example: David tries to talk to Goliath while Goliath is sitting court as an inmate. The court’s deputy warns David and Goliath not to talk to each other, but the deputy does not cite either for a violation of PC 4750. David again tries to talk to inmate Goliath. Result: David will either be removed from the court by the deputy, or the deputy may elect to cite David for a violation of PC 4570, or the crime of Disorderly Conduct in Court.
Criminal Threats as Communication: A person who communicates a threat to an inmate or prisoner, and the person's threat involves the immediate bodily harm to the inmate, or the inmate’s family member, may be charged with the more serious crime of criminal threats. For more information, see Criminal Threats and PC 422.
PC 4570 Punishment
Jail Sentence: Communicating with an inmate without permission is charged as a misdemeanor. A first offense violation of PC 4570 may result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days.
Probation Sentence: A probation sentence, either with or without a term of incarceration, is possible in PC 4570 cases, but a probation sentence is not guaranteed. Whether the defendant is granted a probation sentence after a PC 4570 conviction depends on many factors, including the sophistication level of the defendant’s crime, the defendant’s criminal history, the harm cause, if any, by way of the defendant’s conduct, and the terms of any plea bargain agreement between the district attorney (or court) and the defendant. For more information, see Misdemeanor Probation Sentence.
Additional Punishment: In addition to the punishment of jail or probation, if found guilty of unlawful communication with an inmate or prisoner, the defendant may be punished by being banned from the court or jail where the crime occurred, court fines and fees, immigration consequences, civil lawsuits, and more.
PC 4570 Defenses
Common defenses to PC 4570 allegations include insufficient evidence to prove the defendant was the person who was communicating with the inmate or prisoner, mistake of fact, coerced confession, alibi defense, Miranda violations (Right to Remain Silent Warning), jury nullification, and more.
Judicial Diversion: PC 4570 is a crime that is eligible for judicial diversion, but judicial diversion is not guaranteed. Essentially, judicial diversion is a legal process that circumvents prosecution. The result of judicial diversion is that the defendant avoids a criminal conviction. For more information, see Judicial Diversion.
Post-Conviction Relief: After a criminal conviction for PC 4570, the defendant may have several post-conviction options depending on how the defendant was convicted (i.e., conviction by plea of ‘guilty,’ ‘no contest,’ or by jury or judge after trial). These post-conviction remedies include appealing the criminal conviction, withdrawing a ‘guilty’ or ‘no contest’ plea, terminating the PC 4570 probation sentence early, expungement of the PC 4570 conviction, and more.
If you or a loved one is charged with the crime of communicating with an inmate without permission (unlawful communication with inmate), or California penal code 4570, contact our criminal defense attorneys today for a free consultation. Our defense team has successfully helped hundreds of defendants charged with misdemeanor and felony crimes in the Inland Empire, including the cities and courts of Redlands, Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Victorville, Rialto, Fontana, Yucaipa, Ontario, Chino, Riverside, Banning, and more. Call today!