Hoax/prank call can send you jail for life imprisonment
At some point in your life (probably when you were a teen), you may have made a prank call to a friend or neighbor. While making and receiving prank calls may seem like something we just have to deal with, you should be aware that there are laws affecting prank calls and that you could get arrested for this practical joke.
In recent months, the FBI and law enforcement around the U.S.A. have investigated a number of hoax threats of targeted violence against schools and other public places. These threats often issued via text message or posted on social media are taken very seriously. Hoax threats are not a joke, and they can have devastating consequences—both for the public and for the perpetrators.
Issuing a threat—even over social media, via text message, or through e-mail—is a federal crime (threatening interstate communications). Those who post or send these threats can receive up to five years in federal prison, or they can face state or local charges.
With a thoughtless remark on social media, young people risk starting out their adult lives in prison and forever being labeled a felon.
In addition to consequences for individuals who issue threats, there is also a significant societal cost. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources, and responding to hoax threats diverts officers and costs taxpayers. The threats can also cause severe emotional distress to students, school personnel, and parents.
Here are a few examples of serious threats that the FBI and their partners have investigated:
A young man in Texas used social media and a phone to issue threats against schools in Minnesota. He also called in fake hostage situations, known as “swatting.” He was arrested, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison. He was 19 at the time of sentencing.
A 21-year-old South Carolina man was sentenced to one year in federal prison after he sent text messages claiming there was a bomb in the parking lot of a Veterans Affairs Medical Center in the state.
An 18-year-old North Carolina man was sentenced to 22 months in federal prison and was ordered to pay restitution after he broadcast himself on the Internet calling in bomb threats to various public places, including schools, colleges, and FBI offices