Is prank calling illegal?
Although the following prank calling case is over forty years old, it is still relevant as far as current prank calling laws. Prank calling is illegal in most states as it is often considered a form of harassment, stalking or bullying.
When Gerald Gault* was fifteen years old, he made an obscene telephone call. The call was traced to Gerald′s house in Globe, Arizona. He was taken into custody, prosecuted, and placed in the state′s school for boys. This is an extreme but true example of the consequences for telephone harassment or prank calling. This case ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court and led to a 1967 decision that changed the rights of all minors.
Before the now famous Gault decision, juveniles who got into trouble with the police had very few rights. They were treated more like property belonging to their parents. As a result of Gault, the Supreme Court stated that children enjoy some of the same rights in the criminal system as adults. This includes the right to remain silent, the right to a lawyer if you′re unable to afford one, the right to receive a notice of the charges filed against you, and the right to face your accuser in a court of law.
Laws regarding telephone use haven′t changed since Gerald′s call. Using a land-line, cell phone or Blackberry to harass, annoy, scare, threaten, or swear at someone is against the law. If caught, you′ll be explaining yourself to a judge.
If you′re a victim of telephone harassment, tell your parents. Write down the date and time of the call, and what was said or save the text or voice message. By taking immediate action, you can put an end to the harassment and assist in identifying the caller. The police and telephone/cell phone company may get involved if the calls continue.
*In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967).
Read more about Gerry Gault and his case in “Teens Take It To Court [Young People Who Challenged the Law and Changed Your Life]” by Free Spirit Publishing (2006).