Pranks can be good fun if they don’t end with someone hurt. But some malicious pranks have crossed the line into criminal territory because they’ve led to severe injuries and even deaths. One such prank is swatting.
A criminal offense that has gained notoriety in recent years, “swatting” refers to making a fake emergency services call to convince dispatchers to send police to another person’s home. It’s usually performed with the intent to harass another person, but several swatting cases have resulted instead in the deaths of innocent people.
Swatting has become such a pressing issue that according to the Anti-Defamation League, there are about 1,000 swatting incidents in America each year. Each swatting incident is estimated to have cost at least $10,000 to the communities affected.
Making a hoax emergency call is a federal crime; anyone caught attempting to swat can face multiple criminal charges.
Federal laws on swatting
A federal court can prosecute a person arrested for swatting under several different statutes, including:
- Making threatening interstate communications: Per law, using interstate communications to send threats to another person is illegal. A conviction can lead to heavy fines and imprisonment of up to five years.
- Conspiracy to retaliate against a person: While the specific federal statute mainly deals with people accused of retaliating against witnesses, victims or informants, swatters can also face charges under the law. If the swatting led to the other person’s death, the convicted must serve a life imprisonment sentence.
The person accused of swatting may face additional charges depending on whether they used illegal means to obtain their victim’s contact details or had conspired with others for the offense.
Fake calls lead to real criminal penalties
Swatting might seem like a harmless prank, but the act can lead to violence and death. Not to mention, prank calls cost taxpayers their money. Anyone convicted of swatting potentially faces a life sentence, so those facing charges must carefully consider their legal options.