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Is It Illegal to Make Prank Calls?

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At some point, most people have made a prank call. It seems like a harmless action that’s done for fun. However, there are serious legal repercussions for prank calls and similar forms of communication. 

Legal Definitions of Prank Calls 

In order to understand the laws surrounding prank calls, it’s important to know how a prank call is legally defined. A prank call is defined as any call made to another person with the intent to annoy or harass them. There are a few additional stipulations depending on the situation.  For example, it is considered a prank call if you use obscene language or make a threat of any kind. The definition of obscene language and the intent to annoy someone are not clearly defined. In general terms, obscene language is anything that someone might find offensive.  In other circumstances, it is only a prank call if it is a repeated action. Repeated action is defined as at least two calls being made with the intent to harass or annoy. When it comes to annoying communications, the court will mainly consider whether or not the caller intended to cause annoyance. 

Other Electronic Communications 

While prank calls typically involve making an actual phone call to someone, the legal ramifications can extend to other forms of communication. For example, sending repeated and annoying texts, emails, direct messages, and other online or electronic communications falls under the same laws as prank calls. In other words, prank “calls” are not confined to verbal conversations, but can also extend to written communications. 

Consequences and Defenses 

As with any other crime, the exact consequences will depend on the specific situation and the ruling of the court. Prank phone calls and other electronic communications are charged as a misdemeanor. If you are charged, you can face fines. These fines can be as high as $1,000. It’s also possible to face jail time which can extend up to six months.  If you’ve been charged with prank-calling or another form of communication-based harassment, it’s best to meet with an attorney and settle on a defense. In court, your attorney can help you create a case that suggests that you did not intend to annoy the person and/or you did not use obscene language. This is especially true if you made the call in good faith and it was mistakenly perceived as harassment.  Prank calls might seem innocent, but they come with serious consequences. If you wish to avoid legal trouble, it’s best to refrain from them. If you have already been charged, you should seek legal counsel.  The Law Offices of Bradley Corbett provide you with experienced and qualified criminal defense attorneys.  Click here to learn more about how they can help!

Bradley Corbett

Bradley Corbett is a criminal defense attorney in San Diego. He graduated from Brigham Young University in Provo Utah in 2004. Later he enrolled at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego where he participated in a prestigious internship program with the Los Angeles County Public Defender. Since then he has handled over 2,000 cases.

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