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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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185 PC – Wearing a Mask or Disguise to Evade Police – California Penal Code

By Spodek Law Group | February 12, 2023

Hiding Behind a Mask: California Penal Code Section 185 PC Explained

The Crime of Police Evasion

Wearing a mask or disguise can be an exciting way to bring out the hidden character within oneself or add some spice to a Halloween costume. However, what happens when an individual decides to wear a mask or disguise to avoid being detected by the police? In such a scenario, they could be committing a criminal offense as defined in California Penal Code Section 185 PC. The section stipulates that it is unlawful to wear a mask or disguise for the purpose of evading the police.

Elements of the Crime

To establish that a defendant committed the crime of wearing a mask or disguise to evade the police, a prosecutor must prove the following elements:

The defendant wore a mask, false whiskers, or any other personal disguise.
The defendant evaded or escaped discovery, recognition or identification.
The defendant was in the commission of a public offense or was charged, arrested or convicted of a public offense.
Consider the following example. A man robs a convenience store, but his face is captured by store cameras, and the store owner would be able to identify him. In a bid to avoid detection, he puts on a fake beard after leaving the store to conceal his identity. In this scenario, the defendant could be charged with wearing a mask or disguise to evade police in violation of California Penal Code Section 185 PC in addition to the robbery offense.

However, wearing a mask or disguise for any other reason other than avoiding detection would not lead to a criminal offense. For instance, if the man in the Halloween party example wears a mask as part of his costume and not to avoid detection by the police, he would not be guilty of wearing a mask or disguise to evade police.


Wearing a mask or disguise to evade police detection is a misdemeanor offense that can result in a sentence of up to 180 days in jail, community service, community labor, or costly court fines. Furthermore, a judge can impose other conditions of probation on the defendant. It is also essential to note that the defendant could still face prosecution for the underlying crime for which they were trying to avoid detection.

In conclusion, while wearing masks or disguises is not usually illegal, wearing a mask or disguise to evade the police can result in criminal charges. Thus, it is crucial to know when it is appropriate to wear a mask or disguise and when doing so can result in criminal prosecution.

The Consequence of Wearing a Mask to Evade Police

Have you ever seen a criminal on TV hiding their face with a mask or disguise to avoid being caught? While this may be a common portrayal in the media, it is actually a separate crime in California.

Penal Code 185 PC: The Law Against Wearing a Mask to Evade Police

According to Penal Code 185 PC, it is illegal to wear a mask, false whiskers, or any other disguise to avoid detection by the police while committing a crime or after being charged with one. Wearing masks or disguises in general is not illegal, but if someone uses one to evade the authorities, they can be charged with a crime under PC 185.

The Elements of a PC 185 Offense

To prove that someone is guilty of wearing a mask or disguise to evade police, the prosecution must show that:

  • The defendant wore a mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise to avoid discovery;
  • This was done in the commission of a public offense.

Penal Code 185 PC states: “It is unlawful for anyone to wear any mask, false whiskers, or any personal disguise (whether complete or partial) to evade or escape discovery, recognition, or identification in the commission of any public offense, or concealment, flight, or escape, when charged with, arrested for or convicted of any public offense.”

The Punishment for a PC 185 Conviction

If convicted of this offense, the defendant could face up to six months in county jail and any sentence imposed for the original crime.

Key Factors in a PC 185 Case

It’s important to note that the intent behind wearing the mask or disguise is crucial in a PC 185 case. The prosecution must show that the defendant intended to avoid being recognized or apprehended by the police. Additionally, this crime can only be committed if another crime is also committed. If the defendant is acquitted of the original charges, they cannot be convicted under PC 185.

Our California criminal defense attorneys can help you understand the specifics of Penal Code 185 PC and defend your rights if you have been charged with this crime. Contact us today for a confidential consultation.

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