It's no longer a crime in California not to help a police officer

Posted at 4:40 PM, Sep 04, 2019

California Governor Gavin Newsom did away Wednesday with a law that made it a crime to refuse to help a police officer.

The law dates back nearly 150 years to California's Wild West days, when cowboys and outlaws roamed the state.

The California Posse Comitatus Act of 1872 made it a misdemeanor for "an able-bodied person 18 years of age or older" to refuse a request for assistance from a police officer "in making an arrest, retaking into custody a person who has escaped from arrest or imprisonment, or preventing a breach of the peace or the commission of any criminal offense."

It was widely used by authorities to legally form posses to hunt outlaws.

State Senate Bill 192, which repeals the law, was first introduced on January 30, and it was sponsored by Senator Bob Hertzberg. Hertzberg originally tasked his interns with identifying outdated laws when they discovered it.

"Thank you to my interns for finding a law that belongs in the history books, not the law books," Senator Hertzberg said.

Cory M. Salzillo, legislative director or the California State Sheriffs' Association, told CNN that the bill sends a message that discourages cooperation or giving assistance to law enforcement, and that it creates this notion that you shouldn't help law enforcement.

"We are unfamiliar with concerns with this statute other than it was enacted many years ago and carries a fine for a person who disobeys it," the CSSA said in a statement in June. "There are situations in which a peace officer might look to private persons for assistance in matters of emergency or risks to public safety and we are unconvinced that this statute should be repealed."