What Happens If You’re Accused of Swatting in Ohio?

Swatting refers to a practice in which a person calls police to report a false emergency. Often, the goal of such conduct is to get armed officers, or even a SWAT team, dispatched to the location of the “offense.”

Many times, swatting pranks are committed as jokes. However, others are done as acts of revenge. One of the most well-known instances involved a dispute about an online video game bet. One of the gamers got upset with the other and reached out to a known swatter to get back at him. A SWAT team was sent to the address the swatter gave, resulting in a Kansas man (who was not involved with the game or the bet) was fatally shot by responding officers.

The swatter was sentenced to 20 years in prison for his involvement, and the gamer who contacted him was given a 15-month term.

What Are the Laws Concerning Swatting?

Neither state nor federal laws specifically prohibit swatting. Instead, a person who engages in such conduct can be prosecuted under a slew of other statutes.

The men involved in the Kansas swatting incident were charged with federal crimes. The swatter pleaded guilty to making a false report resulting in a death, cyberstalking, and conspiracy. The man who reached out to him pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

If the swatting incident is handled as a state matter, as was the case with an Ohio teen who made several false emergency calls to police, numerous laws can apply.

In Ohio, a few of the offenses a person can be charged with for swatting include:

  • Making terroristic threat: When a swatter makes a false report of an emergency, they are engaging in conduct that causes people to believe or fear that the reported offense has or will happen, thus affecting the response of a government agency. This crime is a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to 36 months in prison. Also, in addition to any fines imposed by law, a judge can also order the individual to pay the costs incurred to investigate and prosecute the offense.
  • Making false alarms: Swatting involves reporting on an emergency that the caller knows did not happen. This can result in public alarm, and can potentially cause harm to other people or property. Generally, for this type of conduct, a person faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge, which carries a jail term of up to 180 days. However, in some circumstances, the offense can be a felony, and that depends on whether economic harm was caused or if the use of a weapon was threatened.
  • Identity fraud: To conceal their true identity, the swatter will claim they are someone else – often the perpetrator or witness of the “offense” – when making a call to police. In Ohio, if a person uses another’s personal identifying information without consent, they can be charged with a fifth-degree felony. A conviction may result in up to 12 months in prison.
  • Telecommunications harassment: Often swatters make threats over the phone to trigger a police response. In Ohio, doing such is a first-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail.

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