Is Ding Dong Ditching as Harmless as Pranksters Think?
April 7, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses Social Share
For generations, youngsters have been “ding dong ditching” their neighbors for a quick laugh. The term “ding dong ditching” is associated with the act of ringing someone’s doorbell and running away before the unsuspecting victim can answer the door. Although this prank is often played by children and teenagers who believe they are engaging in harmless fun, that fun can have serious consequences if you are caught in the act. This rings true for other pranks, such as egging a house, which is considered vandalism and can result in a criminal mischief charge. To read more about the law behind egging a house, the penalties, and the defenses, visit our blog here. So, what are the possible penalties associated with ding dong ditching? This blog will explore that and more!
The act of ding dong ditching is considered criminal trespass. Criminal trespass falls under two categories. The first is trespass in structure or conveyance, codified under Section 810.08 of the Florida Statutes. The second is trespass on property other than structure or conveyance, codified under Section 810.09 of the Florida Statutes. Trespass in a structure or conveyance is when a person, without authorization, willfully enters or remains in any structure, like a building, or conveyance. In contrast, trespass on property other than structure or conveyance occurs when a person, without authorization, license, or invitation, willfully enters or remains upon a property other than a building or conveyance – such as land. Therefore, trespass on a property other than structure or conveyance would be the applicable law in a situation where someone enters onto the property of another to ding dong ditch their home. The statute specifically states:
A person who, without being authorized, licenses, or invited, willfully enters upon or remains in any property other than a structure or conveyance:
- As to which notice against entering or remaining is given, either by actual communication to the offender or by posting, fencing, or cultivation.
- If the property is the unenclosed curtilage of a dwelling and the offender enters or remains with the intent to commit an offense thereon, other than the offense of trespass, commits the offense of trespass on property other than a structure or conveyance.
Violation of this statute is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, and one year of probation. Therefore, the first time someone is caught in the act of ding dong ditching, they will receive a warning. If they are caught a second time, they will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor.
Disorderly Conduct – Breaching the Peace
Ding dong ditching can also result in a disorderly conduct charge, which is also referred to as breaching or disturbing the peace. Under Section 877.03 of the Florida Statutes:
Whoever commits such acts as are of a nature to corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them, or engages in brawling or fighting, or engages in such conduct as to constitute a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a second degree.
A second-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation, and a $500 fine. To read more about the charge, what must be proven to support a disorderly conduct conviction, and the applicable defenses, visit our blog here.
A Mother’s Warning
Nancy Cavanagh, a single mother of 14-year-old triplets who resides in Palm Beach County, was the victim of the not-so-harmless prank. In February of 2021, Cavanagh’s home was ding dong ditched multiple times. Fearful, she and her children hid under their kitchen table. The act happened four more times over the next two months, all of the instances being recorded on her Ring doorbell camera. But Cavanagh is worried that this prank may turn deadly, stating she did research and found a story from California that resulted in a homeowner being charged with murder after he chased down and crashed into a vehicle, resulting in the deaths of three high school boys who ding-dong ditched his home. Cavanagh stated, “I’m afraid for the kids doing it really. Because this is not those years way back when we used to do these pranks. This is not that time. We’re on high alert right now. People are scared. They may react in a way that’s not favorable.”
Stand Your Ground
Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, codified under Section 776.013 of the Florida Statutes, states that a person who is in a residence in which they have the right to be does not have a duty to retreat and can threaten to use nondeadly force to defend themselves, or deadly force if they believe doing so will prevent imminent death or great bodily harm. If someone mistakenly believes they are in danger because someone is ringing their doorbell, that person may end up resorting to violence to defend themselves – even if there really isn’t any threat.
A prime example of how a prank could end in such tragic results is the story of Mark Drewes, a 16-year-old who was shot and killed in 2013 while playing a birthday prank in his neighborhood in Boca Raton. Drewes’ neighbor, Jay Levin, told investigators he heard noises outside his home just after midnight in October 2004. He then went to his door with a .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun, firing at a person he believed was holding a gun. Mark Drewes was shot in the back and died, and Levin plead guilty to manslaughter with a firearm in exchange for a sentence of one year of probation, 1,250 community service hours, and special conditions such as spending short weekends in jail, contributing money to a scholarship fund in the victim’s name, and “sincerely and publicly” taking responsibility for his actions in court.
To read more about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, visit our page here. Furthermore, to read about a recent interesting story about a local Tallahassee sports star and the reasons he was not permitted to use the “Stand Your Ground” defense, visit our blog here.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in connection with a prank gone wrong, contact an experienced Tallahassee Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Although they may seem unimportant, trespass and disorderly contact charges can have serious implications down the road. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law firm will explore every applicable defense in your favor and seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed. Call us at (850) 681-7777 to set up a free consultation to talk about your homicide charge or send an online message today!
Written by Sarah Kamide