Can "just kidding" be an effective legal defense? As we observe the prankiest of "holidays," April Fools' Day, there will be more than one jokester who invokes "JK" as a defense.
While "just kidding" may placate coworkers and friends in social situations, it may have mixed success in court.
'Just Kidding' = No Intent
For example, many crimes require a specific mental state or intent in order to find a defendant (even a joking one) guilty. So it's possible you may be able to pull the following pranks but lack the necessary specific intent for a crime:
"JK" isn't a perfect defense, though.
Torts, Crimes Even When 'JK'
Even if you're "just kidding," a prank can still get you jailed and/or sued in civil court. Many crimes and torts do not require a specific intent: Some only require a general desire to do something illegal or a willingness to act negligently.
For example, any "Home Alone"-style pranks that scare or somehow touch your intended victim might be considered criminal assault and battery. These pranks can also create liability in civil court for battery or assault, as even unintended victims would have a case against the jokester.
And even if you were "just kidding" when you hijacked your friend's Facebook or Twitter account to post humorous messages in their name, you could still be hauled in front of a judge to answer for alleged computer crimes.
Legal defense fees are no joke, and it won't work to say "just kidding" to a judge or jury. So on this April Fools' Day, and on any other day for that matter, try to be careful with your pranks.