Technologist - The FindLaw Legal Technology Blog

Do Laws Need Updating to Stop 'Swatting' Crimes?

There are some forms of entertainment that people are hardwired to watch. Police chases and standoffs rank pretty high on that list, despite the fact that neither should be considered entertainment at all.

However, a not-so-new prank phenomenon and hoax, known as "swatting," continues to plague law enforcement, the public, and even celebrities. Swatting is a seriously dangerous and illegal prank that involves a person calling in a fake threat to 9-1-1 or police, with the threat being such that the police are required to respond with a massive showing of force, such as by deploying a SWAT team. And while swatting is not funny, and a serious crime, it's difficult to not chuckle a little bit about the fact that Ashton Kutcher, who starred in the MTV sensation Punk'd, got swatted by a 12 year old kid.

Swatting to Death

Recently, a Los Angeles man was arrested after calling in a fake 9-1-1 report that resulted in the death of an innocent, unarmed man. The shortsighted prankster believed he was pranking some random person he encountered (and had a dispute with) online while playing Call of Duty.

Sadly, the prankster got the wrong address, and 28-year-old Andrew Finch was shot dead by local police when he opened his door. Police, based on the false information provided, expected to find an armed young man who had just shot and killed his own father and was holding his mother and sibling hostage at gunpoint.

The criminal prankster was arrested in L.A. and will be transported to Kansas, where the swatting incident occurred, in order to face criminal charges there.

Prosecution Problems?

Despite swatting not being a new prank, curiously, there are no specific federal laws criminalizing interstate swatting. However, as one commentator noted, there may not actually be a need for any, as other federal laws arguably cover the conduct, and most states' criminal laws would as well. In theory, there could be some issues when it comes to which state laws apply in an interstate swatting, but that's besides the point, since doubtless, the filing of a false report to induce police action is illegal in every state.

Related Resources: