Pinning A Prank Call: When A Joke Becomes Harassment
"Is your refrigerator running? Yes? Then you better go catch it!" Silly phone jokes like this have existed since phones were invented, causing shaking heads and hang ups for those receiving these kinds of calls across America. In most situations, no ill will or intent is meant with a prank call, with most ending as soon as they begin. When you continue to receive calls from the same number time and time again, especially late at night, things become a little more sketchy-- and at times, scary. Making a one-time, funny phone call as a joke to a friend or family member during daylight hours is one thing, but entering into the realm of harassment is another. If you've felt threatened or harassed by a phone call (or series of calls), you're likely eligible to pursue some sort of legal action:
In order to actually qualify for legal action (or for the police to take your situation seriously), you'll need to determine what category the calls fall under in addition to making a clear record of what has been said during the calls. If you're certain the harassing calls have been coming from a friend or family member, police will likely guide you towards getting a restraining order instead of pursuing a criminal charge. Once that order has been broken by further contact, then the calls will be treated as a criminal matter. If, however, you have been receiving repeat calls from the same stranger, it could be a criminal matter. Use the following guidelines to help you in determining where your situation falls:
- The specific time is key-- if calls are coming in on a regular basis when the majority of town is asleep, it's much more harassing than if the calls were to occur at noon.
- Any sort of threat given over the phone should be taken seriously and reported to the police immediately. While many such calls may be a sick attempt at humor and have no basis in reality, your safety is not worth the risk.
- Even if the call doesn't involve threats, obscenities, or sexual content, it can still be considered illegal if the caller keeps calling to say the same thing over and over.
- Not saying anything can still qualify as harassment. If the caller doesn't speak but continues with calls involving heavy breathing or strange noises, it's harassment.
If you've been the recipient of a prank call gone wrong, don't hesitate to contact an attorney, from a company like Gomez May LLP, to start the legal process-- and never hesitate to contact the police if a call becomes violent or threatening.