NRS 207.245: Prank 911 Call— Definition, Penalties, and More

Every now and then we hear a cute story of a little kid calling 911 just because they are curious or have recently learned to call 911 in an emergency.

Most parents teach their children at a young age to call 911 if there is an emergency.

If a small child calls 911 by mistake, sometimes the police or fireman might show up to teach the children a lesson about when to call 911.

This usually ends up on the news as a cute story about calling 911.

The other side of that same coin is when a child does call 911 for a real emergency or save a relative from a medical episode because they knew what to do, that also makes a great public service story.

But there is another side to calling 911.

All types of people call 911 for a variety of reasons every day.

But every now and then we hear stories of someone calling 911 for ridiculous reasons other than an emergency or essentially prank calling 911. This is illegal as well as wasting the time of 911 dispatchers and first responders.

Another common occurrence recently is called “swatting” or calling 911 to falsely report a crime or emergency that is not actually occurring.

Calling 911 for frivolous reasons or calling 911 to have police or other first responders arrive at a non-existent emergency is a crime and the suspect can face serious criminal penalties.

What Is Swatting?

The FBI defines swatting as “making a hoax call to 911 to draw a response from law enforcement,” which is usually a SWAT team.

The individuals who engage in this activity use technology to make it appear that the emergency call is coming from the victim’s phone. Sometimes swatting is done for revenge, and sometimes, as a prank. Either way, it is a serious crime, and one that has potentially dangerous consequences.

Swatting can be dangerous and get innocent people injured or killed.

The calling out of a SWAT team or other first responders for emergencies that don’t exist can cost the city and the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Also, calling out a first responder to a false emergency can take them away from the ability to respond to a real emergency.

Penalties for a Prank 911 Call

NRS 207.245, the crime of misuse of the 911 system, reads “It is unlawful for any person knowingly or willfully to make or cause to be made any telephonic access to an emergency telephone system if no actual or perceived emergency exists.”

If you violate NRS 207.245, you are guilty of a gross misdemeanor.

If convicted of the misuse of 911 services you may be sentenced to up to one year in jail and up to $2000 in fines.

Other Charges You Can Face

If you call 911 to report an emergency that is not actually happening or to “SWAT” someone, you may face additional charges under NRS 207.280.

This NRS statute makes it a misdemeanor in Nevada to deliberately make a false report to any police officer, sheriff, district attorney, deputy sheriff, deputy district attorney, or member of the Department of Public Safety that a felony or misdemeanor has been committed, which then causes a law enforcement agency to conduct a criminal or internal investigation.

Obscene or Threatening Calls

911 isn’t the only target for prank callers.

The average person may get a few here and there but most of the time it doesn’t amount to much and may happen so infrequently that we think nothing of it.

However, there are circumstances when calls arise to the level of threatening, obscene, or annoying.

Obscene Calls

NRS 201.255 makes it a misdemeanor to make annoying, threatening, or obscene phone calls to another. Under this NRS, it is a crime in Nevada to willfully make calls using obscene language, representations or suggestions to or about the recipient.

What qualifies as obscene is determined by the United States Supreme Court which states that:

  1. An average person applying the contemporary community standards would find the speech taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest and
  2. Taken as a whole, the speech lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value; and
  3. The speech depicts or describes in a patently offensive way either ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated; or any masturbation, excretory functions, sadism or masochism, or it lewdly exhibits the genitals.

Threatening Phone Calls

When a person intentionally makes phone calls with the purpose of threatening to:

  • Injure the recipient
  • Damage the recipient’s property
  • Injure a member of the call recipient’s family; or
  • Damage to property belonging to any family member of the recipient

Threatening a person by phone can be a very gray area. If you make a direct threat like I’ll set your house on fire is a very clear crime.

If you say “you’ll be sorry” that might not be considered a crime because it fails to meet the standard of a crime.

The only thing that matters in this case is intent. If you intended to annoy the victim by calling them over and over but they don’t answer or you never speak to them. You can still be found guilty because of the intent to annoy the victim.

What Are the Penalties for Annoying, Threatening, Obscene Phone Calls

Similar to a prank 911 call, you could face jail time for making obscene, threatening, or annoying phone calls.

This can land you in jail for up to 6 months and can get you a $1000 fine.

Most of the time if this is a first offense you will receive a fine or some sort of community service.

What Should You Do if You Are Charged With a Crime

Most people who call 911 are reporting an actual emergency or call by mistake like a child.

However, in the unlikely event that you are charged with making a frivolous 911 call or engaging in Swatting, the consequences can be severe. You may be subject to imprisonment and substantial fines. Furthermore, if you are accused of making obscene, threatening, or annoying phone calls, you can also face legal repercussions.

However, jail time is no joke and can have an adverse effect on things like employment or housing.

You need help defending yourself against criminal charges of any kind. If you have been accused of misuse of the phone for calling 911 or making obscene calls, call The Defenders.

We have expert lawyers for every criminal charge including phone crimes like calling 911 for swatting or frivolous reasons. Our defense team at The Defenders has been able to help clients with all types of criminal charges from small offenses like making prank calls to everything from murder to drug offenses.

The Defenders have been helping clients fight charges in Nevada for years.

Our goal is always to get the most positive outcome for our clients including getting the charges dismissed or reduced based on our one investigation.

The Defenders handle all aspects of your defense against criminal charges including all correspondence between the prosecution and defense, any request for a written or recorded statement, or any pre-trial court hearings we will attend with or for our clients.

Charges with a crime like prank calling 911 or calling another person to be obscene could lead to other charges like harassment or stalking that carry much more severe consequences than lesser misdemeanors.

Contact The Defenders today to speak with a lawyer about the charges you are facing.

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