Is it Legal to Make Prank Calls?

Nearly everyone makes a prank call at some point in his or her life, most likely during one’s teenage years. It was also likely hilarious when you did it, or watched a friend do it. While making or receiving prank calls may just seem like something that is no big deal, it is important to understand that there are actually laws that govern these actions. In fact, making the wrong type of prank call or making one too many prank calls could actually get you arrested for this favorite past time practical joke.

Prank Calls and the Law

There are several criminal laws that could apply to prank calls. The most obvious one is, of course, harassment. Depending upon the applicable jurisdiction, however, other laws could apply. This includes those that govern and prohibit wiretapping, disorderly conduct, and even hate crimes. Below are just a few ways in which the practical joke of prank calling can turn south and possibly result in your arrest:

  • Disorderly conduct: Some states’ laws define disorderly conduct in a manner that includes abuse and offensive language that is intended to incite anger in others. For a prank call to fall under disorderly conduct, the call must be more than just a stupid prank; instead, it must be more akin to verbal abuse and/or other demeaning conduct;

  • Harassment: There can be a very thin line between a harassing prank call and a simple obnoxious one. Generally speaking, calling multiple times a day, at odd hours of the night, or making threatening statements could fall under harassment.

  • Wiretapping: Many states make it illegal to record a telephone conversation without the consent of the other person. Nonetheless, many teens and others who make prank calls do record the conversations in the hopes that something funny will transpire that can be shared with others. Depending on the state, recording a telephone conversation without consent could result in a felony charge.

  • Hate crimes: Similar to the crime of harassment, hate crimes have the underlying motive is the victim’s characteristics. This may include religion, race, national origin, gender, etc.

While prank calls may be innocent, they are not becoming of an honorable and good citizen. Notably, some prank calls that will definitely result in criminal charges include those that involve bomb scares, hacking computers to extort money, and stalking others.

Notably, 12 states in the nation require both parties be aware that a phone conversation is being recorded under their laws. Those states are California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. Nevada state law, along with the rest of the states in the country, does not require that both parties be aware the conversation is being recorded.

Attorneys in Las Vegas, Nevada

In sum, prank calling is probably not the wisest way to spend your time, particularly because it could get you in serious trouble with local authorities. While prank calling may not be illegal per se, depending on the content of your call you may end up with criminal charges against you. If you have questions about prank calling in Nevada, or any other legal question, contact the personal injury attorneys at Parry & Pfau today.

(image courtesy of Mark Alexandrovich)