Making prank calls to 911 to get police to react to a non-emergency – sometimes called “swatting” – has gained popularity over the past few years, but is no laughing matter. Making a silent or abusive call to 911 is a crime in Texas that can carry steep fines and jail time.
Pranksters who dial 911 when there is no real emergency and then hang up, stay silent, or make a bogus request, outlandish statement or plea for help risk getting arrested. Pranking police is not something law enforcement find amusing, since it could prevent people with real emergencies from getting through or getting help. Although the 911 system tracks callers, many cybercriminals call with a spoofed number.
Under Section 42.061 of the Texas Penal code, a person commits the offense of making a silent or abusive call to 9-1-1 service, if he or she calls 911 when there is not an emergency and knowingly or intentionally:
A person also commits the offense if they knowingly permit another person to use their phone or communications device to make a silent or abusive call to 911.
Making silent or abusive calls to 911 is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Swatting is a term used for making a false report about an ongoing crime to emergency officials with the intent of getting a large police presence or “SWAT” response at a specific location where no emergency exists. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates there are about 400 cases of swatting a year. Swatting has been gaining in popularity in recent years, especially with online gamers. Officials say that the callers will use caller ID spoofing or other techniques to disguise their number as being local or call non-emergency numbers instead of 911. It’s also common for the caller to claim that there is a killing or hostage situation involved in an effort to draw a large number of officers.
In September 2018, numerous police officers raced to a home in north Fort Worth after a man called 911 and claimed he had “five hostages, has already shot one of them and is demanding $5,000.” Soon after officer arrived at the purported address, they learned the call was false, or “swatting.”
Several months earlier in May 2018, police rushed to an address in Arlington after receiving a 911 call claiming that someone had been shot there. Turns out, it was also a fake call.
If you or a loved one is facing charges stemming from a 911 call, call us today for a complimentary strategy session. Our law firm is made up of experienced attorneys who focus on criminal defense matters at the state and federal levels. Collectively, our lawyers bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience, have tried more than 550 jury trials, and include four Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists.
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