Prank calls have been popular among teens and tweens looking to tease their friends. As fun as they might be, some prank calls can get you into trouble.
Read on to understand when a prank call is considered a criminal offense and the possible consequences of making them.
- Can You Get In Trouble For Prank Calling?
- Is Prank Calling Illegal?
- Can You Get Arrested For Prank Calling?
- Can You Go To Jail For Prank Calling?
- What Happens If You Prank Call 911?
- In What States Is Prank Calling Illegal?
- Is It Illegal To Prank Call Restaurants?
- Related Prank Caller Questions
Can You Get In Trouble For Prank Calling?
If you’re wondering if you can get in trouble for prank calling, it will depend on who you call, how often you call, and what you say.
Prank calling friends and family can be funny, especially if they’re in on the joke eventually. You can find some funny prank call ideas that won’t get you into trouble.
There is a very small chance that a prank call will lead to someone laying a criminal charge against you, but depending on what was said and the frequency of the call, it can happen. It may be considered harassment if the call is perceived as threatening in nature and makes one fear for their safety.
Not only can you get into trouble if you’re parents find out that you’ve prank called someone, but you could also get into trouble with the law.
You can get into trouble for prank calls, especially if you contact emergency services with false information or make threatening and harassing calls to other people.
Most prank calls are considered irritating but harmless. For example, you might call a friend’s house once and hang up. However, if you call several times or say something offensive, threatening, or abusive, the person you called could claim that you harassed them.
Similarly, if you call a pizza place and order without giving an address, this would be annoying, but you won’t get into any legal trouble, as they will most likely cancel the order. However, if you order several pizzas and complete the order with a random delivery address, stating that the recipient will pay on delivery, you could be liable to pay for that order.
It’s important to note that with caller ID nowadays, it’s much easier to identify the caller than it was previously.
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Is Prank Calling Illegal?
Some people consider prank phone calls to be obnoxious and completely harmless, usually tolerated as practical jokes.
However, some calls can be categorized as criminal harassment, disorderly conduct, or hate crimes; this is illegal and can get you into trouble. These include:
- Calling emergency response numbers like 911 (providing false information/obstruction of justice.)
- Intentionally threatening the person, their family, or their property (harassment.)
- Make repeated calls to annoy the person (harassment.)
- Hate Crimes: Hate crimes share similarities with harassment, but their underlying motive is to attack the victim’s characteristics, including their religion, race, and sexual orientation.
- Using obscene language.
- Recording the call without the other person’s consent (wiretapping).
- If your call amounts to disorderly conduct.
Whether prank calls can be considered illegal also varies from state to state. You can get fined and maybe face some charges and jail time.
You need to be aware that a guilty verdict will have an impact on virtually every aspect of your life for years to come after you are convicted of a crime.
When applying for a new job, seeking housing approval, or looking to further your career, you may be required to pass a background check. You may be passed over for these opportunities if you are convicted of a criminal offense and become trapped in a cycle of rejection.
You could lose your professional and personal reputations. Your visitation and custody rights could also be in jeopardy if you are in a child custody dispute. Furthermore, a conviction could result in a loss of firearm rights, disqualification from federal student aid, and other collateral penalties.
The court may order you to complete a rehabilitation program, attend counseling sessions, and pay restitution to any victims.
If you prank call someone in another state, you could be charged with a federal crime. The federal government regulates calls across state lines, so the police may request involvement with federal agencies if you make a phone call to someone out of state. In spite of the fact that your prank call may have been a joke, this type of prank may be the most serious. Because you would be violating a federal statute, this is also a felony. If you have a felony conviction, you may have difficulty finding employment, enrolling in college, getting a loan, getting an apartment, and many other things.
Another serious crime is what is referred to as Swatting, which involves making a prank call that causes the victim to be subjected to an emergency law enforcement response. This harassment technique is most commonly used by members of the online gaming community.
Prank calling is also considered illegal according to some contracts provided by phone service providers. Your telephone services can be suspended.
In other instances, you can get a temporary restraining order to cease and desist.
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Can You Get Arrested For Prank Calling?
You can get arrested for prank-calling if you repeatedly call and harass someone or make threats. Harassment is an actual charge, usually enough to warrant a minor criminal charge. Illegal prank phone calls made across state lines attract a felony charge.
If someone feels their safety is in jeopardy, they can have you tracked through your call. If they discover who you are, they will file police charges against you, and you may be arrested. Calling emergency responders with false information can also get you arrested.
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Can You Go To Jail For Prank Calling?
You can go to jail for prank calls, especially if you have reached your state’s criminal age of responsibility. If you call and repeatedly harass someone, you can be jailed. Threatening calls can also have you arrested, depending on the threat’s seriousness.
Depending on the state law in which you live, you can be charged with a misdemeanor if your prank call involves:
- obscene language,
- threatening the recipient, the recipient’s family, or the recipient’s property, or
- making repeated calls to annoy or harass the recipient.
You can be punished with the following:
- up to 6 months in county jail,
- a fine of up to $1,000, and
- misdemeanor probation, with a mandatory term of counseling.
Calling an emergency response number like 911 is very likely to be considered a crime if your call results in the following:
- An emergency services vehicle, like a fire truck, ambulance, or police car responding.
- An evacuation.
- The activation of the Emergency Alert System.
You could be punished with the following:
- 1 year of jail time and/or
- a $1,000 fine.
The criminal charges become a felony if:
- the call is across state lines
- the caller knowingly reports a false emergency (including ‘Swatting‘)
- the response to the telephone call can cause significant bodily injury or death, and
- the report does cause great bodily injury or death.
You could be punished with the following:
- 3 years in prison and/or
- a $10,000 fine.
Additionally, callers can be held responsible for emergency response costs.
What Happens If You Prank Call 911?
If you prank call 911, you could be charged with a misdemeanor criminal offense and face 1 year of jail time and/or a $1,000 fine.
It is classed as “providing false information” and “obstruction of justice” It’s punishable by law to misguide the police. By prank calling 911, you are taking away essential services from someone in real need of them.
Most prank phone calls to 911 interfere with the delivery of services or affect emergency responders’ ability to offer assistance to people who genuinely need it.
Someone might require an ambulance if you call saying you need one, and it’s not true. You will be denying a person the chance to get the proper assistance.
Prank calls to the police department pull police officers from their duties to deal with your call. It is essentially taking away the much-needed police protection from the community.
If your call is made to a fire station and they rush to your aid, you will have deviated its services from an actual emergency.
The rush with which all the above emergency responders try to get to you might put them and others in danger.
911 should only be called for genuine emergency purposes.
In What States Is Prank Calling Illegal?
- In most states, the most likely criminal law to apply to prank calls is criminal harassment. Harassing prank phone calls are illegal, and any calls meant to disturb or annoy others are prohibited.
- In some jurisdictions, other laws apply, such as laws prohibiting disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice, wiretaps, and hate crimes.
- Many states consider recording prank calls to be illegal wiretapping.
- In all states, making prank calls to 911 and giving false reports is unlawful.
- If the call has crossed state lines, it becomes a federal crime, meaning the FBI might get involved.
- In certain states, you may face criminal penalties for making a prank call under their own criminal code. For example, in Utah, you might get into trouble for committing “telephone abuse.” The Utah Criminal Code defines telephone abuse as a crime involving the abuse of electronic communications.
Is Prank Calling Illegal In Texas?
While it is not illegal to make prank phone calls, in some cases, they can constitute harassment.
Tex. Pen. Code § 42.07, consider the following actions unlawful harassment:
- Phone calls that are obscene or threatening
- Falsely informing people that a person has been injured or killed
- Anonymously harassing, offending, alarming, or annoying others through repeated phone calls
- Making a call and not hanging up or disengaging the connection
- Allowing their phones to be used for harassment purposes
In Texas, harassment is generally a Class B misdemeanor but can increase to a Class A misdemeanor if certain aggravating factors exist, such as prior harassment convictions.
Class B misdemeanors can result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000. Class A misdemeanors can result in a maximum jail sentence of one year and a maximum fine of $4,000.
Moreover, under Texas law, pranking 911 services is a Class B misdemeanor criminal offense if the caller remains silent or makes abusive or harassing remarks.
Is Prank Calling Illegal In Florida?
Harassing prank calls are illegal in Florida and classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. The offender, if found guilty, can be fined $500, undergo six months’ probation, or go to jail for six months. Additionally, the statute applies when you let your friend prank call off of your phone.
Is It Illegal To Prank Call In California?
Park calls that are considered harassment are illegal in California. According to the California Penal Code 653m(a), it is illegal to contact an individual using any mode of electronic communication with the intent to annoy them. This could include using obscene language, making repeated (at least two) calls, or threatening that person, their family, or their property. Remaining silent on the line without communicating is also considered illegal. If you do this, you could be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Is Prank Calling Illegal In Ohio?
Prank calling is illegal in Ohio if the call is made to harass an individual. Calls made as practical jokes, though not illegal, are a nuisance to many.
If you prank call your closest friends and family members, you probably won’t get into trouble with the law, but you might find that your parents are not too impressed with your behavior.
Is It Illegal To Prank Call Restaurants?
It is not illegal to prank call restaurants. However, if your calls can hurt the business or are threatening in nature, the restaurant can choose to take legal action.
If you place an actual order, and they try to deliver it without receiving payment, you may be liable for the cost of the order.
If the calls are harmless but irritating, the restaurants are entirely within their rights to block your number.
Is It Illegal To Prank Call Fast Food Places?
It is not illegal to prank call fast food places; most people find it annoying, especially if you call during peak hours. If you call when they are less busy, some employees might play along. So long as the call is not harassing or contains abusive language. But it is wrong to aggravate employees and waste their time.
Can Restaurants Track Your Number?
Most fast-food restaurants will have caller ID and store your information for future orders. Restaurants can request the police to track your number if they feel your calls harm their business or if you make threatening phone calls. They will only track your number if they have a legal reason to do it.
Related Prank Caller Questions
Can you report a prank caller?
You can report a prank caller if you feel threatened or in danger. If the calls are repeated and inappropriate, you can contact the police. The police will take your statement and try to locate and track the prankster for appropriate action.
Is calling random numbers illegal?
Calling random numbers is not illegal. It becomes unlawful if the calls are considered harassment, i.e., if several calls are made using obscene language or referring to an individual’s religious beliefs or sexual orientation.
Can a private number be traced?
A private number can be traced by following specific legal procedures. You can get the courts to subpoena the telephone company for additional information on the number. You can also involve the police, who investigate and then obtain a warrant to trace the number.
What can the police do about harassing phone calls?
If you can provide the police with sufficient evidence that the calls were harassing in nature, they can ask the phone company to assist in tracking down the caller. Once they have identified the caller, they can call or visit the offender and tell them to stop.
If unsatisfied with the response, they can forward the case to the local district attorney’s office for prosecution.
If you call a person out of state, the police may request involvement from federal agencies because the federal government regulates calls across state lines.
In conclusion, prank calling can be fun if they’re done in good humor, and you both end up laughing together.
Pranking friends or family in a silly way can be fun, but it’s important to remember that this kind of joke can have serious consequences if you’re dealing with someone who isn’t in on the joke or if your call is seen as being threatening in any way.
A person may choose to take legal action against you.
Rather than risk putting yourself in a difficult situation, it’s best to stay away from any kinds of prank calls altogether. With the vast amount of technology and entertainment options available, there are plenty of other ways to have a good time without resorting to such tactics.