Panama City Criminal Defense Attorney
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Legal Defense for Pranks Gone Wrong

Question: If a person continuously receives prank phone calls, is there a law to prosecute the prankster?

Answer: We all have received a prank phone call at some point in life, though such was much more popular in the 1980's and 1990's, before such good technology existed to track the origin of such. Today most all phones have traditional caller ID, and even blocking such by dialing *67 will not prevent law enforcement from locating the guilty party's phone number, as phone carriers still know who originated the phone call despite the dialing of *67 and regularly provide such caller ID information to law enforcement following the issuance of a subpoena to the phone carrier. In other words, blocking caller ID with *67 will not prevent the phone carrier from knowing who originated the call, and thus in 2016 it is much easier to catch someone compared to the 1980's.

Florida statute 365.16 makes it a second degree misdemeanor offense to continuously harass an individual over the telephone. The statute outlaws harassment in the form of lewd or obscene comments, as well as general harassment through continuously making one's phone ring for no legitimate reason. The law extends to those who knowingly allow someone to use their phone for the purpose of harassing another, so never loan your phone to someone whom you know will use such to harass another.

This second degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60-days in the county jail, or six months of probation, as well as up to $500.00 in fines and additional Court costs. If you are adjudicated guilty, then you will actually have this criminal conviction on your record, meaning you cannot have your conviction sealed or expunged, and will have to state "yes" every time you are asked during a job interview whether you have a criminal conviction.

Of course, one can also pursue obtaining a civil Restraining Order against the prankster, which would require the prankster to have no contact with you via phone, email, or third parties, as well as not to be within a certain distance of you. If the person violated such, then the person could be prosecuted for a criminal offense due to violating the civil Restraining Order.

Additionally, with the increase in technology, most harassment is now occurring on the Internet. Florida Statute 748.48 outlaws stalking, including cyber stalking. Depending upon the facts of the alleged stalking, such as on-line harassment, threats of violence or actually driving past the victim's home or entering the workplace, for example, the crime can be anywhere from a First Degree Misdemeanor up to a 3rd Degree Felony, which means a felony punishable up to five years in prison or felony probation, as well as up to $5,000 in Fines plus additional Court Costs.

If you or someone you know has been falsely accused of phone harassment or stalking, contact my law office today. Do not let such an allegation result in a criminal conviction, staining your future both professionally as well as in your personal life. Call (850) 250-3426 and help save your future today.