Is Prank Calling Illegal?

Is Prank Calling Illegal

Most of us have at one point or the other attempted to prank a friend or a colleague or family member. It sometimes can be quite funny but at other times it can be annoying. But then is prank calling illegal. This is one question begging for answers especially among people who have made it a habit to terrorize other people with prank calls and messages. We will explore this and other related matters in this piece today.

Is prank calling illegal

Yes, it is illegal. You could be arrested for engaging in it. There are also several ways such a call may be traced as well. But more often than not action is not taken in these situations. Back in 1967, a fifteen-year-old named Gerald Gault was sentenced to a state reformatory for a period that could extend to his 21st birthday because he made an obscene phone call. This issue extended the procedural safeguards which are required in a juvenile court even further thus giving juveniles the rights that are similar to those of adults charged with a crime. There have however been some modifications in the law since then. It, therefore, suffices to say that prank calling is illegal as long as it involves scaring, bullying, stalking and harassing an individual. It is also vital to consider state laws.

A Look At The Legal View Of Prank Calls

Some prank calls get criminalized in several jurisdictions. An example is a call that involves one calling emergency services. However, others may be covered by freedom of expression. In America, for a prank call to breach the Telecommunications Act, the call must have been carried out with the intent to threaten abuse or harass.”

Criminal pranks may be a case of bomb threats to telephone harassment. An instance is a hoax call that occurred in the Western part of Australia on the eve of New Year back in 2002. A drunken teenager placed a call to the anti-terrorism hotline to make a report about a bomb threat against the New Year’s Day celebration. The threat was taken seriously to the extent that the threat was about to be canceled, it took concerted efforts and investigations to find out that no such threat existed in the first place. The teenager was then arrested for giving false information.

What Type Of Prank Calls Can Be Considered As An Offense?

There are certain types of prank calls that can get you into deep trouble. For instance, threatening to cause harm to a person over the phone with the intent that they would believe what you are saying. Also, threatening to kill a person over the phone can get you into serious trouble. Furthermore, threatening that you have left or would leave an explosive device in a place with the intent to make them believe also applies. And finally, if you harass or cause an offense to a person over the phone either by the things you say or the manner with which you do it could also be an offense.

What Should You Do If You Receive A Prank Call?

The moment you receive a prank call, it is advisable that you hang up as quickly as possible. However, if you keep on getting the prank calls, you should consider making a formal complaint to the police. They would then proceed to investigate and prosecute whoever is behind such an action

As an alternative measure, you could call your phone service company for assistance. The only clause here is that the telephone company can’t be forced to communicate the details of the person calling except the request is from the cops.

What Is A Prank Call?

Also known as a hoax call, crank call or phone call, a prank call is simply a telephone call that is designed by the caller to be a practical joke played on the person who is answering. It is most times a nuisance type of call. The recordings of prank calls became quite popular and traded among sound engineers, musicians, and other media traders in America starting from the later part of the 1970s. The earliest known recorded prank calls include the Tube Bar prank calls. Jerry Lewis was a very naughty prank caller back then and the recordings of his calls are still in circulation even till today.

There have been several prominent victims of prank calls such as Queen Elizabeth the second who got pranked by a Canadian DJ Pierre Brassard who posed as the Canadian Prime Minister. In the call, he asked her to record a speech supporting the Canadian unity ahead of the referendum in Quebec.

What Are The Types Of Law Addressing Prank Calls?

By default, a prank call ought not to be more than a practical joke that is delivered via telephone. When this happens, the prankster often disguises his or her identity and seeks to make the person being called to say rather embarrassing or foolish things.

1. Disorderly conduct

If a prank call is considered a menace to the society or has the potential to disrupt the law and order in a city, the caller can be charged with disorderly conduct. However, the definition of disorderly conduct varies from place to place. But for a prank call to be considered disorderly conduct, it would require the judge or police to determine. A fine is often paid by those accused of disorderly conduct.

2. Harassment

Several cities and states have laws that prohibit some types of verbal harassment. A harassing type of phone call is one that the recipient feels intimidated or threatened. Oregon State, for instance, defines a harassing phone call as the type where the recipient feels harassed or annoyed for no purpose. Thus, if a victim of a prank call feels annoyed or intimidated, he or she may file for harassment.

3. Wiretapping

In a situation where a prank caller opts to record the call, such a person could be found guilty of wiretapping. The laws concerning wiretapping vary from one state to the other. Several states instead have a one-party wiretapping law. This means that a call can be taped if one of the two parties in the call consent to the call to be taped.

4. Privacy Invasion

This is simply defined as an intrusion into the private or personal life of another person. Even though it is not a criminal offense, the damages incurred for convicts can be quite significant.

Anonymity Issues With Prank Calls

These days, prank callers can be easily identified using caller ID, hence, it is a fact that prank calls have become more difficult since the 90s. This is perhaps why they are waning in popularity. Several telephone companies allow their callers to hide the identifying information from calls by using the Vertical Service code which helps in blocking the caller ID.  The drawback of this is that potential victims may not be favorably disposed to answering a call emanating from an ID blocked number. In addition to this, wiretapping by several governments has made prank calls quite easy to trace.

They may also use payphones to conceal their identity even though this is becoming less popular because payphones are not as popular as they were. One other quite popular option in this regard is to use a VoIP. The thing with some VoIP services is that the phone number would not exist. This makes these types of calls quite difficult to trace because they may have to pass through several routers and servers that are operated by different corporations in different locations. Law enforcement agencies may, however, be able to find where such a call comes from if they did try. But the number of resources, efforts and time required would be too much to be used on just a prank call.

What Is The Role Of The Internet In Prank Calls?

For a while now there have been several internet radio stations with programs for prank calls. Some of them have a rotation of prank calls where they broadcast pre-recorded prank calls from different sources. There is new software evolving every day which allows people to share their prank calls and bring it to a wider audience.

Furthermore, prank calls can be implemented in several ways. For instance, they can be pre-recorded or live with certain platforms allowing people to carry out live pranks. Also, the use of social media means that such prank calls can get a wider reach and coverage.

Last Line

Prank calls can remain fun as long as they do not exceed certain boundaries. This is however not the case most times as a lot of people violate other people’s privacy and cause them emotional distress. But is it a crime, we believe we have sufficiently answered this.

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