Suppose you intentionally obstruct a public business establishment after being asked to leave. In that case, you could be charged with violating Penal Code 601.1 PC, a misdemeanor crime.
Your guaranteed freedoms under the United States Constitution do not apply when you intentionally and deliberately interfere with the freedom of people to operate a business.
Suppose you are a protester at the entrance of a business and yell at people attempting to enter it. In that case, you could be charged under this law if asked to leave but refused. Simply put, California law makes it a crime to interfere with or obstruct a business establishment.
PC 602.1 says, “(a) Any person who intentionally interferes with any lawful business or occupation carried on by the owner or agent of a business establishment open to the public by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to carry on business or their customers, and who refuses to leave the premises of the business establishment after being requested to leave by the owner or the owner's agent, or by a peace officer acting at the request of the owner or owner's agent, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to 90 days, or by a fine of up to four hundred dollars ($400), or by both that imprisonment and fine.”
Subsection (b) covers intentionally interfering with any lawful business by public agency employees open to the public by obstructing or intimidating those attempting to do business.
Subsection (c) covers any person who intentionally interferes with a business by a public agency by knowingly making a material misrepresentation of the law to those persons there to transact business.
Subsection (d) says this law shall not apply to any person engaged in lawful labor union activities permitted on the property by state or federal law and anyone on the premises engaging in activities protected by the California Constitution or the United States Constitution.
Obstruct a Business - Explained
As noted, this California law makes it a crime to intentionally interfere with any open-to-the-public business or occupation.
This could occur by obstructing or intimidating anyone trying to conduct regular business. Perhaps customers are being harassed, and you refuse to leave after being by the owner, employee, or a police officer.
In most cases, PC 602.1 cases occur in situations related to peaceful protests or expressions of free speech, referred to as "civil disobedience." However, violations occur whenever any willful interference or obstruction hinders the business from operating.
A public business establishment is described as any commercial or non-commercial entity open to the public, such as the following:
- Retail stores;
- Abortion clinics;
- Planned Parenthood;
- Doctor's office;
- Movie theaters.
To convict you, prosecutors must prove all the elements of the crime beyond any reasonable doubt, including that you behaved as follows:
- Intentionally interfered with a lawful business open to the public;
- Obstructed or intimidated those attempting to conduct business; and
- Refused to leave the premises after being asked by the business owner, their employees, or a law enforcement officer.
Violations of PC 602.1 are a misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days in jail and up to $400 in fines. Judges will typically grant summary probation as an alternative to jail time if convicted.
What Are the Related Crimes?
California has several statutes that are related to Penal Code 601.2 PC obstructing a public business establishment, including the following:
- Penal Code 148 PC – resisting arrest;
- Penal Code 647 PC – disorderly conduct;
- Penal Code 415 PC – disturbing the peace
- Penal Code 602 PC – trespassing;
- Penal Code 408 PC – unlawful assembly;
- Penal Code 404 PC – rioting laws;
- Penal Code 409 PC – refusal to disperse at riot;
- Penal Code 416 PC – failure to disperse;
- Penal Code 169 PC – picketing near a court.
What Are the Legal Defenses?
Suppose you're charged with PC 602.1 interfering with or obstructing a public business establishment. In that case, our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers can utilize different strategies on your behalf, as discussed below.
Maybe we can argue there was a lack of intent to obstruct business operations. Perhaps we can say you peacefully protested or exercised free speech rights, and any interference was incidental.
Maybe we can argue that your conduct should not have been considered obstruction or intimidation. Perhaps you were standing on the sidewalk with a sign, not bothering anyone.
Maybe we can argue that you were not asked to leave by anyone as required under the elements of the crime. If no request was made, you're not guilty of refusing to go, even if you were interfering with business operations.
Maybe we can argue that you did leave when asked. Perhaps we can say that you were exercising your First Amendment rights as part of a peaceful protest, and there was no intentional interference with business operations.
You can contact our law firm by phone or via the contact form for a free case evaluation. Cron, Israels & Stark has offices in Los Angeles, CA.