California Penal Code 597b - Cockfighting

Animal cruelty is taken seriously in California and forcing animals to fight is considered abuse. Getting charged with cockfighting should not be taken lightly. The punishment for a conviction ranges from thousands of dollars in fines to a potential year-long county jail sentence.

Having a criminal history will have long-term impacts on your future. From jobs to housing, many places tend to run criminal background checks before moving forward with anyone. This means you could face losing job prospects, housing opportunities, or educational goals.

Do not face these charges alone. It is highly recommended you find a criminal defense attorney who understands how to best defend you against these allegations. To further explain how cockfighting is treated in California, let’s take a look at how this law is defined.

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Definition of Cockfighting

Cockfighting is outlined under Penal Code 597b, which states this crime is committed when:

  • You cause a cockfight,
  • For amusement or financial gain, Or
  • You aid or abet in a cockfight, Or
  • You permit someone to use your property or any property under your control for a cockfight.

What is a cockfight?

A cockfight takes place when you cause a cock or rooster to worry, fight, or injure another cock or rooster. This law also applies in situations where you cause a cock to fight with another animal or with a human being. Essentially, you violate this law if you cause a cock or rooster to worry or injure another living creature.

Can you be guilty if you didn’t make any money?

Not making any financial gains from a cockfight does not excuse you from the crime. Although gambling is one of the common reasons to hold such an unlawful event, it is not the only reason. Under this statute, hosting a cockfight to amuse yourself or others is equally punishable. You can be convicted of PC 597b whether you caused a cockfight for personal profit or simple entertainment.

Closely Related Offenses

There are crimes similar to PC 597b and they can be charged in connection with it. The following are just some of the offenses that are closely related to cockfighting.

California PC 337(a) - Bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering laws;

This law is related to gambling and makes it a crime to engage in pool-selling, bookmaking, or wagering. It also prohibits you from keeping or occupying a building, mobile vessel, or any other property in order to record or register bets and/or wagers. This statute also criminalizes the receiving, holding, or forwarding of any money or valuables being used to stake, pledge, or wager in a bet, competition, or trial.

California PC 399 - failing to control a dangerous animal;

You commit this crime when you fail to use the necessary care in confining a dangerous animal and that lack of care resulted in another person getting seriously injured or killed.

California PC 597.5 - Dog Fighting;

Owning, keeping, or training a dog with the intention of engaging it in an illegal fight with another dog is a crime. Causing a dog to fight with another dog or causing them to injure one another, either for amusement or for financial gain is a crime. You also violate this law if you permit the dogfight to happen on any property that you own, manage, or control.

California PC 597.7 - An animal left inside of an unattended automobile;

This crime is committed when you leave an animal in a vehicle alone and the conditions for which they are left are not conducive to their health. For instance, when temperatures are too high inside the vehicle or when there is no ventilation.

California PC 597 - Animal Cruelty;

Also referred to as animal abuse, this law makes it a crime to maliciously abuse, harm, maim, scar, starve, torture, or kill an animal. You can be charged with this crime no matter if the animal was your pet, a stray, a farm animal, or a wild animal.

It’s important to note, the consequences are often combined in cases where you face more than one offense. This means you could face additional penalties for every conviction.

The Prosecution

The prosecution must prove the facts of the case before they can get a conviction. The facts are known as the elements of the crime. Under PC 597b, the prosecutors must prove these two facts:

Elements of the Crime

  • You caused a cockfight between two roosters or between a rooster and different animal or human, for entertainment or profit;
    • Or you allowed a rooster to injure another animal or you injured it for amusement or financial gain; and
  • You committed this act on a property that you owned, managed, or controlled.
    • In cases where the defendant did not own the property but was using it to host a cockfight can still lead to a guilty verdict.
    • This is an element that is usually determined based on the specific facts of the case.

California takes animal abuses, unlawful fights, and illegal gambling rings seriously. This means law enforcement will often respond with zero tolerance. The prosecution will also fight hard to get a conviction, especially in cases where the cockfights resulted in animals being severely injured or killed.

Who Can Be Charged

The following examples will help illustrate who can face charges for cockfighting under PC 597b. If you can relate to any of these situations, do not hesitate to contact a top-notch defense attorney who can help fight on your behalf.

Example 1:

Samuel inherited a family farm and wanted to pay off the outstanding debt it was in. His friend, Jared ran a gambling ring and occasional high-stakes dog fights. The farm had chickens, pigs, and cows. He asked Jared to use his property and a few of his healthy roosters for a cockfight event. Samuel picked out the roosters and left Jared in-charge of everything.

The police were tipped off and the cockfight event was stopped. Jared was arrested and charged with PC 597b, but Samuel was not at the event. Although Samuel was not present during the police raid, he would still face charges for cockfighting. He was the owner of the property and knowingly allowed it to be used for hosting an unlawful cockfight to turn a profit.

Example 2:

Gerard met a new friend, Lucky. They became such good friends that they each had a spare key to one another’s homes and were often sleeping over. Lucky asked Gerard if he wanted to watch a cockfight at his house. Gerard agreed to attend but did not place any bets. Just as the cocks began to fight, police arrived and arrested everyone they could for illegal cockfighting. 

Lucky and Gerard were charged with PC 597b. Gerard, however, disputed the charges claiming he was only there to watch the fight and had not made any bets. He also claimed he had no control over the property. Nevertheless, he would still be guilty of being a spectator and to some extent, having his own key to the property could be construed as having some semblance of control over it. Recall the definition above, specifically where you can still face charges if you were watching the fight for amusement or sport.

Example 3:

Elena owned a couple of trailers and only had one rented out. Her friend Samson asked if he could live in the other one and she agreed. He raised chickens and had two rowdy roosters. After being laid off from his job he could no longer pay her the rent. Elena did not want to evict him and suggested he find alternative ways to earn an income. She noticed the robust roosters and mentioned possibly using them in profitable cockfights. She gave Samson a phone number to someone she knew who could connect him to the right people.

Samson accepted the number and followed her advice. He was able to enter his roosters in several illegal cockfights before law enforcement was able to shut the fight ring down. He was charged with two counts of PC 597b for using both of his roosters. The truth was revealed that Elena was the connection between him and the fight promoters. Elena can also face cockfighting charges for aiding Samson. She not only advised him to commit an illegal act, but she made it more possible by initially providing him with the phone number.  

Example 4:

John had a rooster, a pitbull, a tabby cat, and a lizard. None of his pets got along, so he would keep the rooster outside and the lizard in an aquarium while the cat and dog roamed freely. Out of boredom, he locked the rooster and lizard in his shed and placed a camera inside to watch what they would do. When nothing happened, he placed the cat inside as well. The cat and rooster began fighting each other while the lizard stayed away. Thinking it would be funny to see what would happen, he put the dog in the shed as well. The cat jumped onto a shelf, keeping away as the dog attacked the rooster, eventually breaking its’ neck.

John could face charges for PC 597, animal abuse for placing all four of his pets in a violent and potentially fatal situation. He would also face two counts of PC 597b for allowing his rooster and cat to fight, then allowing his rooster and dog to fight.

Legal Defenses

Fortunately, there are some common legal defenses that have been used to fight PC 597b, cockfighting charges. Having the right legal representation to defend you can make a difference in whether you face the maximum penalties or not. A strong legal defense can help to get the charges reduced or dismissed.

If any of these questions apply to your situation contact a criminal defense lawyer to help you challenge these accusations.

Was it an accident? Was it an act of self-defense?

If a rooster was accidentally injured that is not the same as cockfighting and you should not be guilty of PC 597b. Cases where the defendant had no criminal intent to injure an animal, was not acting with negligence, and was not engaging in unlawful acts during the incident should not be guilty of committing this crime.

For example, Lucia owns and runs an animal refuge, often taking in strays and abused animals. Hoping it can be rehabilitated, she agreed to take in a cock that was used in cockfighting rings. When it arrived, she had to keep it isolated from the rest of the animals, as it was often too aggressive. After several weeks, she decided to slowly introduce him to the rest of the animals. It began to attack a small, mixed-terrier and would not stop. Coming to the aid of the small dog, she kicked the rooster away. One of her neighbors misunderstood the incident and reported Lucia for cockfighting.

In this case, she would not be guilty of PC 597b. Even though she physically injured the cock, she did not intend for it to cause fights amongst the other animal rescues. Nor did she intend to attack it. She only did so to defend the small mixed-terrier from sustaining lasting injuries caused by the cock.

Did you own, manage, or control the property being used?

To be guilty under PC 597b, cockfighting, the accused must have had some control over the property that was being used for the fight. If you did not have any ownership, managing powers, or control of the area, space, dwelling, or property that was used for the cockfight, you could dispute the charges.

For instance, Cena was staying at his friend, Wilma’s beach house for the weekend. He did not know that the basement was occasionally used to host dog and cockfights. He would hang out on the beach all day and night while she threw large parties. Saturday night, he saw police cars pull into Wilma’s property and went back to the house to investigate. They shut down the party and the cockfight, arresting Wilma for PC 597b. Officers also charged Cena with the same crime when they discovered he was staying at the beach house.

Cena challenged the charges, claiming he stayed away and did not know cockfighting was taking place during the party. Fortunately, Cena’s defense lawyer was able to prove his innocence. Cena had zero control or ownership of the property and did not participate in any part of the event.

Penalties for PC 597b - cockfighting

If convicted of cockfighting, your first offense is a misdemeanor.

Misdemeanor;

A possible one-year county jail sentence, and/or

As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

Enhanced Penalties

The case becomes a wobbler if you are charged with a second offense for violating PC 597b, cockfighting. This means you can face harsher misdemeanor penalties or a possible felony.

2nd offense, if convicted as a misdemeanor you face;

A potential one-year county jail sentence, and/or

Up to twenty-five thousand dollars in fines.

Subsequent offenses, if convicted as a felony you face;

A possible three-year prison sentence, and/or

As much as twenty-five thousand dollars in fines.

Penalties for Closely Related Offenses

If you are facing multiple charges, one of the best things you can do is find an effective defense lawyer to help you. Facing additional offenses means you are dealing with stacked punishments. Fines will increase and any prison or county jail time will have to be served consecutively. 

California PC 337(a) - Bookmaking, pool-selling, and wagering laws;

  • Infraction (if the amount of the pool was at or less than two-thousand five-hundred dollars);
    • A fine of two-hundred-fifty dollars.
  • Misdemeanor (if the amount of the pool was more than two-thousand five-hundred dollars);
    • A potential one-year county jail sentence.
    • Further misdemeanor fines range from one thousand to fifteen thousand dollars depending on any prior convictions for pool-selling, bookmaking, or wagering.
  • Felony;
    • A possible three years in state prison.

California PC 399 - failing to control a dangerous animal;

  • Misdemeanor;
    • Summary (informal) probation,
    • As long as six months in county jail, and/or
    • Fines of up to one thousand dollars.
  • Felony;
    • Formal (felony) probation,
    • 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail, and/or
    • As much as ten thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 597.5 - Dog Fighting;

  • Misdemeanor;
    • Informal (misdemeanor) probation,
    • A possible one-year county jail sentence, and/or
    • As much as five thousand dollars in fines.
  • Felony;
    • Formal (felony) probation,
    • 16 months, 2 or 3 years in county jail, and/or
    • As much as fifty thousand dollars in fines.

California PC 597.7 - Animal left in an unattended vehicle;

  • Infraction (if the animal is not seriously injured);
    • A one hundred dollar fine per animal.
  • Misdemeanor (if the animal did suffer serious bodily injury);
    • Up to five hundred dollars in fines, and
    • A possible six-month county jail sentence.

California PC 597 - Animal Cruelty;

  • Misdemeanor;
    • Up to one year in county jail, and/or
    • Maximum fines of up to twenty-thousand dollars.
  • Felony;
    • As long as three years in state prison, and/or
    • As much as twenty-thousand dollars in fines.

Call Us For Help

Attempting to face these accusations alone can be overwhelming. If you or someone you care about are facing charges for cockfighting and they are located in the greater San Diego area, Los Angeles, or Orange County, contact the Law Offices of Anna R. Yum. As a former prosecutor turned highly trusted criminal defense lawyer, Attorney Yum has a critical understanding of what it takes to successfully fight these charges.

Trying to maintain control of your future does not have to feel impossible when facing such harsh offenses. Let us help. For more information on PC 597b or any of the aforementioned offenses, you can call us at 619-233-4433.

Schedule your no-obligation, free-consultation today or leave us a detailed account of your case on our online contact form.

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