Receiving a prank call can be the most annoying thing in the world and undoubtedly, we all have been to such a situation where either we have received or made prank calls to tease neighbors or friends. While receiving or making prank calls can be something that we don’t much care about. But, prank calls and practical jokes can seriously send you behind bars.
Is Prank Calling illegal?
You may be surprised to know that prank calling falls under criminal law and is considered harassment. Some other hate crimes acts can also be included which depend on your jurisdiction such as wiretapping and laws that restrict disorderly conduct.
When does a Prank Call become illegal?
As the jurisdiction changes, laws that make prank calls illegal also get changed. A prank is illegal if it is intended to;
- Threaten or
- Initiate medical disturbance in the victim’s body.
While making a prank call, you must be aware of the difference between an illegal prank call and an obnoxious prank call. You may be arrested for making a prank call to someone late at night and saying stupid or disturbing things. Additionally, if you make continuous calls after some regular intervals of time, you may be infringing the law.
In some states, disorderly conduct defines abusive and offensive actions or language used to arouse anger and hatred in someone. Unlike prank calls that fall under harassment, you need to make severe remarks on the phone in order to call it disorderly conduct. In other words, think of some demeaning and verbally abusive conduct.
This conduct is much similar to harassment. Calling someone at any time or after regular intervals at any time of the day for just spreading heat remarks underlying the characteristics of a person’s gender, religion, origin, or race.
So if you intend to call someone and you hear back a heavy or light accent and you start mocking them on the phone, then you are committing hate crimes.
In many states, it is still illegal to record someone’s calls and videos without his or her consent. But neglecting the severe consequences, teens still record prank calls and eventually share them with their friends to have some kind of fun through a verbal exchange. Whether the prank calls contain mocking, hate speech, threat, or harassment, be aware that this recorded call can be the reason for some harsh felony charges against you.
Prank Calls also become illegal if:
- They are obscene
- They result in disorderly conduct
- The prank call is recorded without the receiver’s consent
- The call is made to an official emergency contact number such as 911.
States rely on general criminal laws in order to prosecute the prank call lawsuits. Some of these criminal laws that act for prank calls include:
- Harassment laws
- Disorderly conduct
- Domestic violence
Some states precisely have strict laws for prank calls made to threaten or disturb the recipients.
Is Prank Calling illegal in California?
Is prank calling illegal in California? The answer is yes. According to the California Penal Code 653m, it is illegal to make phone calls to someone through electronic means with the intention of pestering someone. Till now, you may have figured out whether making prank calls are illegal or not. The point that makes a prank call illegal is the purpose/intent like why the prank call was made and the number of calls that were made.
Additionally, the penal code 653m also states that if someone threatens, harasses, uses hate speech, or obscene language over a call, would be penalized under misdemeanor charges.
A violation of the penal code is also a misdeed or misconduct. Anyone convicted after the violation of Penal code 653m would be penalized for up to $1000 and a six-month district prison. So prank calling in California can be really tough for instance.
Moreover, Section 264 of the Criminal Code says that the conduct related to harassment will be punished under this law.
Is Prank Calling illegal in Texas?
In Texas, there is no law that specifically prohibits individuals from making prank calls, but some circumstances can lead a call to constitute harassment. This is where a call becomes illegal.
According to the Texas Penal Code 42.07, harassment is considered a Class B misdemeanor. However, the offense and the penalties would increase to Class A misdemeanor if the offender possesses prior felony or harassment convictions.
As per the Texas Penal code, the harassment conviction of a Class B misdemeanor would end up an offender in jail for 6 months along with the fines of $2,000.
Class A misdemeanor has the potential of imposing jail time up to one year with the fine amount of $4000 in total. Furthermore, in Texas jurisdiction, it is a criminal offense if you make a prank call on 911 emergency service.
According to the Penal Code 42.061, if someone makes a prank call to 911 without any emergency and says nothing or makes harassing comments, it is actually violating the laws.
Not only making harassing calls but individuals can also be convicted if their phones are being used for this purpose, no matter who is making calls. Simply put, under Texas penal code it is a Class B misdemeanor to make a prank call to 911.
Is it illegal to Prank Call a Business?
In some states, it is hard to distinguish between prank calls to businesses and to individuals personally. If the state keeps it illegal to make prank calls when it is for harassment and abuse, then it means making prank calls to businesses is also illegal.
Furthermore, calling businesses and making fake food orders can end up in additional liability.
For instance, Mike makes a prank call to a local pizzeria and orders 10 pizzas to drop at Joe’s. When pizzas are delivered, Joe is refusing to pay $150 as he did not order them. Here. Mike would be held liable.
How can a record of a call lead to jail time?
Oftentimes, prank calls are made to have fun by exchanging hate comments or mocking the recipient on the other end. Normally teens record and share these calls without the consent or knowledge of the recipient.
In many states, including Texas and California, these illegal conducts fall under wiretapping laws which may bring severe repercussions.
Wiretapping laws say that it is illegal to listen to or record someone else’s conversation without their consent. In California, it is a wobbler to wiretap a call. If pursued, the conviction can carry one year of jail time with a $2500 fine.
If you have been convicted of making prank calls and violating the state’s penal codes, then it is best suggested to consult a local criminal defense attorney. An experienced criminal defense attorney will help you determine your constitutional rights and ways to protect them.
A skilled attorney will find out if the case actually violates the state laws or is based on the assumptions made by the recipients. If you are convicted of prank calls for the first time, it is likely that you get away with just a warning. In other cases, you may face severe penalties.
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