At Wilfertlaw, PC, we often get questions from our clients related to what we might commonly refer to as “Prank Calls.” Specifically, the question is often when a phone call made to another person can create criminal liability that might result in an arrest or worse, a conviction. Most basically, when does a prank become a crime.
Under California Penal Code section 653(m), if you intentionally make a phone call or send text or email messages that are considered obscene, threatening or even just harassing, you can be prosecuted for a misdemeanor offense and face serious consequences! Penalties for sending these types of messages or making these types of calls can result in fines, jail time and other sanctions.
Penal Code 653m reads as follows:
(a) Every person who, with the intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person and threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addresses or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this section shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith.
(b) Every person who, with intent to annoy or harass, makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device, or makes any combination of calls or contact, to another person is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or contact by means of an electronic communication device, guilty of a misdemeanor. Nothing in this subdivision shall apply to telephone calls or electronic contacts made in good faith or during the ordinary course of business.
It is important to understand that a phone call or messages need to be more than just annoying to qualify for criminal prosecution but this line can be confusing at times. If you are dealing with a situation where you are concerned about a phone call or text message or email, contact us at Wilfertlaw, PC. We have substantial experience navigating these waters and can usually help immediately during the first conversation.
As always, we offer free consultations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Contact us now at (805) 901-9119!