What Are the Penalties for “Swatting”?

What Are the Penalties for “Swatting”?

What Are the Penalties for “Swatting”?

The act of “swatting” has become an increasingly widespread means of harassing, threatening, or even causing physical harm to other people. From online livestreamers to judges to national politicians, all sorts of people have been unexpectedly raided by police based on false criminal allegations made against them. This is done either as a prank or as an attempt at intimidation for their political or social views.

In addition to wasting emergency and police service resources, this behavior can also be prosecuted harshly as a criminal act on its own, potentially carrying multiple years in federal prison if convicted. Here is a brief overview of how law enforcement authorities generally define “swatting” and the potential penalties for “swatting” someone.

What Qualifies as “Swatting”?

“Swatting” is a colloquial term referring to the act of calling emergency services or the police, and deliberately making a false report that someone else is committing a serious criminal act, putting lives at risk. Typically, this is done with the intention of provoking a strong police response—often involving the use of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) teams, hence the term “swatting”—against the target of the false allegation. The end goal is to frighten the targeted person or cause them to suffer property damage or physical injury.

These reports are often anonymously using spoofed phone numbers or fake email accounts, and they may involve allegations of anything from a bomb threat to a hostage situation to a planned mass shooting. Regardless of the circumstances, knowingly lying to police about a serious crime is illegal under Florida and federal law.

Can You Go to Prison for “Swatting” Someone?

Currently, Florida Statutes § 817.49 makes it a first-degree misdemeanor to make a false report of criminal behavior to police or to any “public safety agency” while knowing that no such crime has occurred. This means a conviction could result in a sentence of up to a year in jail, a probation term of the same length, and $1,000 fine.

However, if such a report results in any law enforcement or public safety agency undertaking a response which results in someone suffering “great bodily harm” or any disabling or disfiguring injury, the offense becomes a third-degree felony punishable by a five-year prison term and maximum $5,000 fine. Any such response resulting in someone’s death makes the offense a second-degree felony carrying a maximum 15-year prison term.

Additionally, anyone convicted of “swatting” someone in Florida will be required to pay restitution for costs incurred by their offense, including the costs of any police response. It is worth noting as well that the federal Anti-Swatting Act makes “swatting” punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison if prosecuted by federal authorities.

Call a Swatting Defense Attorney Immediately

If you have been accused of “swatting” someone, you need legal help immediately. There are defenses for this accusation, especially if you truly believed there was reason to be alarmed. Call us today to discuss your legal options.

What Are the Penalties for “Swatting”?
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