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Is it a crime to play a swatting prank on someone?

On Behalf of | Nov 3, 2023 | White-Collar Crimes |

Prank calls to emergency services aren’t new. But a new form of prank call, which has trended in recent years, has become so dangerous that it has resulted in several injuries and deaths.

Swatting is the act of making a hoax call to an emergency services dispatcher. The prankster deceives the dispatcher into sending police personnel to a location where a supposed violent crime is occurring, intending to harass and intimidate another person.

However, these incidents can quickly escalate into unintended violence. It’s not unusual to hear about swatting incidents where the police – who thought they were responding to a violent crime report – wound or kill innocent people.

Making a prank call to swat someone is a crime under Texas law. Those convicted can face harsh penalties normally reserved for more serious crimes.

False reporting to induce an emergency response

Per state law, a person commits an offense if they make a report of a criminal offense or emergency to a peace officer, law enforcement agency or emergency service while knowing that the report is false. It must also be shown that the offender recklessly disregarded whether the emergency response could result in bodily injury to another person.

The penalties for swatting

The offense of false reporting to induce an emergency response is a Class A misdemeanor, which leads to up to a year in jail and $4,000 in fines. However, the criminal grade could increase depending on certain factors:

  • The violator has two earlier convictions of the same offense: The offense is a state jail felony, which carries up to two years of prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • The violator made a false criminal offense report, which a law enforcement agency responded to: The offense is a third-degree felony, which carries up to 10 years of prison and $10,000 in fines.
  • A person suffered bodily injury or death due to lawful conduct arising from the incident: At this point, the offense is also a third-degree felony.

In addition to these, violators may also face additional criminal charges for online impersonation if they used the name and persona of another person to make the emergency call. This is a felony of the third degree, with the corresponding penalties that come with the offense.

Endangering others with a prank call is a crime

Swatting is a dangerous prank that can lead to fatal consequences. Officials can charge offenders with a third-degree felony, which is the same criminal degree for serious offenses such as kidnapping or tampering with physical evidence. Years of prison time and thousands of dollars in fines await those convicted.