Can You Get Arrested for Prank Calling in Florida?

March 6, 2022 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses

Pranks are one form of comedy that withstands the test of time. From the 1980s and 1990s, before caller ID existed and *67 worked wonders for prank callers, to the modern-day when the technology exists to create sham phone numbers, prank calling/texting has subsisted in the mainstream. But is prank calling illegal? Can you get arrested for prank calling and even face jail time? Find out everything you need to know with our blog post!

So, Is Prank Calling Illegal in Florida?

Pursuant to Florida Statute Section 364.16, obscene or harassing telephone calls are illegal. The statute states that whoever:

(a) Makes a telephone call to a location at which the person receiving the call has a reasonable expectation of privacy; during such call makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, vulgar, or indecent; and by such call or such language intends to offend, annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number;

(b) Makes a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, without disclosing his or her identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number;

(c) Makes or causes the telephone of another repeatedly or continuously to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number; or

(d) Makes repeated telephone calls, during which conversation ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number

Is guilty of a second-degree misdemeanor.

Interestingly, the statute also covers what happens when you let your friend prank call off of your phone. It states that “[w]hoever knowingly permits any telephone under his or her control to be used for any purpose prohibited by this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.”

The statue was upheld in 1996 with the Florida Supreme Court’s decision in Gilbreath v. State. But, the Court did state in their holding that the terms “annoy” and “offend” did not constitute elements of criminal intent that could sustain a conviction since the terms do not have a solidified legal meaning and could result in subjective convictions based on how singular judges interpret the terms.

Prank Calling Scenarios

Depending on how the prosecution charges the offense, there are four scenarios where the state could prove the offense of making harassing telephone calls. Here is what the state would have to prove for each scenario:

  • 1st Scenario
    • You made a phone call
    • To somewhere that the person on the other end of the call held a reasonable expectation of privacy, and
    • During the call, you said something in any manner that was considered obscene, filthy, vulgar, indecent, lewd, or lascivious, and
    • You intended to annoy, harass, offend, threaten, or abuse the person you called while using that language.
  • 2nd Scenario
    • You made a phone call (a conversation does not necessarily have to happen), and
    • You did not disclose your identity to the person you called, and
    • You intended to annoy, harass, offend, threaten, or abuse the person you called.
  • 3rd Scenario
    • You called someone repeatedly, and
    • The repeated calls and ringing are intended by you to harass the person you are calling.
  • 4th Scenario
    • You called someone repeatedly, and
    • The person picks up the phone and talks, and
    • Your intention in calling them repeatedly was to harass the person you are calling.

Prank Calling Penalties

As previously stated, the prank-calling offense is classified as a second-degree misdemeanor. The punishments can be a combination of:

  • 60 days in jail,
  • 6 months of probation, and
  • A fine of up to $500.

Prank Calling Defenses

If you are accused of committing the crime of transmitting harassing telephone calls, there are many defenses that could be available depending on the particulars of your case. Some common defenses include:

No Repetition

The statute uses the language “repeated” in reference to the phone calls. In some cases, the fact that the prankster did not make repeated calls has served as a defense.

Disclosure of Identity

The statute also uses the language “not disclosing identity.” If a prankster disclosed their identity in the call, this could serve as a defense to the charge.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one has been accused of making harassing telephone calls, call a knowledgeable Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have the experience necessary to fight for your freedom. Give us a call at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our team.

Written by Gabi D’Esposito

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