Is Ding Dong Ditching as Harmless as Pranksters Think?

April 7, 2022 Criminal Defense, Juvenile Offenses

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!

Criminal Trespass

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:

  1. As to which notice against entering or remaining is given, either by actual communication to the offender or by posting, fencing, or cultivation.
  2. 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.”

Ding Dong Ditching Deaths and Injuries

While ding dong ditching is sometimes written off as a harmless prank, it can have deadly consequences if someone rings the wrong doorbell. Three California teenagers learned this the hard way in 2020, when their vehicle was run off the road by a man whose doorbell they rang before fleeing in their car. One of the boys was given a dare to prank a neighbor with a “ding dong ditch.” After ringing the doorbell, the three teenagers fled in their vehicle. The homeowner then chased them down, reaching speeds of up to 100 miles per hour before ramming the car containing the teenagers. The collision sent the adolescents careening into a tree, killing all three of them. In 2023, the driver was sentenced to life in prison.

In Florida, there are similar examples of unsuspecting youngsters being injured or killed as a result of “ding dong ditching.” In 2003, a 16-year-old was shot dead in Palm Beach County after a ding dong ditching gone wrong. More recently, in 2023, a child was kicked after being chased down the street following a ding dong ditch prank at a neighbor’s home. The neighbor also flashed a gun after the child was on the ground. He was charged with aggravated assault and child abuse without great bodily harm.

In 2022, one of two teenagers who played a ding dong ditch prank was beaten “nearly to death” by Delaware state troopers. Even though the state trooper who owned the home wasn’t there at the time the teenagers rang the doorbell, his family notified him of the prank when he arrived. That’s when they were chased down by state troopers, resulting in the suspected doorbell-ringer being almost fatally beaten.


Individuals who trespass in a structure or conveyance violate Florida Statutes Section 810.08. Additionally, someone can be found guilty of trespass on property even if they are not physically inside the structure or conveyance under Florida Statutes Section 810.09. If a ding dong ditcher is caught trespassing on private property while performing the prank, or enters someone’s home, they may face a trespassing charge.

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.

Disorderly Conduct

Under Florida Statutes Section 877.03, whoever commits acts meant “to corrupt the public morals, or outrage the sense of public decency, or affect the peace and quiet of persons who may witness them … such conduct as to constitute a breach of the peace or disorderly conduct, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of a second degree.” This is punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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

Page Updated on July 10, 2024

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