Legal Consequences of Swatting Prank

A new type of prank, seemingly with origins in Hollywood, has begun to surface in Western New York. “Swatting” is when someone makes a prank call to 911 in order to get law enforcement, particularly a SWAT team, to respond to a fake incident at someone’s home. Attorney Barry Covert spoke to WGRZ about this new trend and whether new laws should be put in place to keep up with the changing landscape. The full story is available by watching the video below and on the WGRZ website.

State laws

According to WGRZ, if someone is hurt or killed because of swatting there are laws in place to bring those people to justice. People who make these fake 911 calls can be charged with manslaughter and, in New York State, that person could be charged with murder. This is due to a state law that refers to reckless actions and depraved indifference to human life.

Mr. Covert explained to WGRZ that state laws are not strong enough when someone is not injured by these swatting incidents. Currently, the strongest charges possible are filing a false police report and aggravated harassment, which are misdemeanors.

“As a defense lawyer, I don’t usually advocate for more laws,” Mr. Covert said. “We really badly need a new law here because it’s really putting law enforcement in danger and it’s putting the victims in danger. And right now, the penalty if nobody is injured is only a misdemeanor. The legislature really needs to do something here. There has to be a higher penalty because, if there’s not, we don’t have the deterrence to keep people from doing that.”

About Barry N. Covert

Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.