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Swatting: A crime California parents should warn their kids about

When you were younger and your parents educated you about the use of 911 services, your parents probably emphasized their lecture with one important phrase, "only use it in emergencies." As you entered your teenage years though and learned about pranks, you may have been tempted to call in an emergency to the police as a way to make yourself and your friends laugh.

But did you know that calling in a false emergency is illegal in the state of California? Furthermore, did you know that the FBI has been known to press federal charges against individuals who perform what is now being called "swatting?" If you didn't, then you'll want to continue reading today's post which could save you or your child from facing criminal charges down the road.

Swatting, as explained by the FBI, is a type of hoax in which a 911 caller draws the response of law enforcement to an emergency that does not exist. It is called swatting because in many cases, a SWAT team is usually dispatched.

Here in California, Senate Bill 333, which was approved by the governor on September 9, 2013 and chaptered by the Secretary of State to be used as law, considers swatting to be misdemeanor offense and can lead to a sentence of up to a year in jail and $1,000 fine. If the swatting incident results in great bodily injury or death, it becomes a felony and the sentence is raised as well as the fine, which can be up to $10,000.

It's not just our state that takes swatting seriously though. As we said above, the FBI has taken legal action against individuals who report false crimes.

Take for example the case of Matthew Weigman, a 19 year old who was sentenced in 2009 to more than 11 years in a federal prison for swatting activities. According to the FBI, Weigman's first swatting incident took place in 2004 when he convinced a 911 operator that he was holding a girl and her father hostage in their Colorado home. The report was false though and had been done in retaliation against the girl because she refused to have phone sex with Weigman.

As you can see, reporting a false crime can lead to serious criminal charges for which you will need legal representation. It's a lesson we hope our readers will pass onto their children as well.

Source: The Federal Bureau of Investigation, "The Crime of ‘Swatting’," Sept. 3, 2013

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