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Is it Legal to Prank Call in America?

It is highly likely that at some point in your life–likely during your teenage years–you have made a prank call on your own or with friends. While making a prank call (or being on the receiving end of a prank call) may seem like something that just happens in life, it is important to know that there are laws that prohibit this behavior. 

So, the short answer to whether it is legal to prank call in the U.S. is: It depends. What may seem a funny practical joke could actually turn into something much more serious.

Laws Governing Prank Calls

Depending upon the jurisdiction in which you live, a person who prank calls may face criminal charges and even arrest. Below are several ways in which prank calling can be categorized that violates applicable laws.

  • Harassment: An obnoxious prank call can quickly turn into a harassing prank call, the latter of which is illegal under the law. Generally, it is against the law for someone to call another late at night and make stupid or silly comments. When a person calls several times a day, on consecutive days, or makes threatening comments, there is likely a violation of the law;
  • Wiretapping: It is illegal in most states to record a telephone conversation with the other person’s consent. Nonetheless, many prank callers like to record their conversations in the hopes of catching a funny exchange to share with others. Wiretapping others could be a felony offense;
  • Hate crimes: A serious criminal offense in America, hate crimes are similar to harassment except for the motive of the act. When the motive for the crime is based on the target person’s characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, or sexual orientation, it rises to the level of a hate crime. If a prank call starts mocking the person due to his or her characteristics, it may have become a hate crime;
  • Disorderly conduct: While not all states’ definition of disorderly conduct is the same, the law typically considers this act to include language that is offensive and abuse that is intended to bring about anger in others. Like harassment, in order for a prank call to rise to the level of disorderly conduct the call should be more severe than just a silly joke. Instead, it will be closer to verbal abuse and/or other conduct that is demeaning to others;

If your prank calling resulted in criminal charges, be sure to contact a local criminal defense attorney immediately. Do not try to resolve this on your own without legal representation. 

Contact an Attorney

If you have questions about prank calling or other behaviors that may be illegal, be sure to look up the local laws in your jurisdiction. If you have other legal questions or you have been hurt in a Las Vegas accident, contact the Matt Pfau Law Group today. We can explain your rights and obligations under Nevada law.

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