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What is Swatting and Is It a Crime?

Swatting is a form of harassment where a person makes a false report to the police to get an emergency response, usually from the SWAT team (hence the name). Often, a swatter will claim they heard gunshots at someone’s home. The police send a tactical team to investigate, and they arrive with guns drawn. The victim usually has no idea what is going on or why the SWAT team is at their door. Sometimes, the authorities break the door down when no one responds.

Things can escalate from there. There’s a real risk that a confused victim might think they’re under attack and either run away or draw their own gun in defense, which can lead to a police shooting.

In Texas, swatting is a criminal offense, and you could face time in jail and a loss of reputation. Call us if you need a Galveston criminal defense attorney to help defend against these charges.

Why Do People Engage in Swatting?

Typically, people are motivated to harass someone because of:

  • Personal grudges
  • Political disputes
  • Romantic disappointments

Swatting of political opponents has been in the news recently, with various Republican and Democratic politicians targeted. Even journalists or online commentators have been the target of swatting attacks because of their political beliefs. It’s hard to imagine some people would do this over a political dispute, but it happens.

What Texas Laws Apply to Swatting?

Texas Penal Code § 42.0601, False Report to Induce Emergency Response, is the applicable law. You have committed this crime if you:

  • Make a false report of a criminal offense or emergency,
  • Which you know is false, and
  • Cause police or other emergency responders to respond,
  • While you are reckless about whether the response could directly lead to bodily injury.

Swatting easily satisfies these elements. In the typical swatting incident, the defendant knows there is no emergency or crime taking place but makes a false report anyway. They do so because they want there to be a risk of serious physical harm to the person targeted.

Penalties for a Swatting Conviction

This offense is charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances.

Class A Misdemeanor

Most swatting incidents will be a Class A misdemeanor unless there are special considerations or circumstances. If convicted, you can face a $4,000 maximum fine and up to one year in jail.

State Jail Felony

You can face state jail felony charges if you have at least two convictions for this offense. Consequently, you might face up to 2 years in state jail, with a maximum $10,000 fine.

Third Degree Felony

Swatting might even be a third-degree felony where a person is seriously injured or dies. The penalties include 2-10 years in prison and a maximum $10,000 fine.

Can Tad Nelson & Associates Defend Against Swatting Charges?

Possibly. These are tough cases to defend, however.

One defense is that there was an actual emergency, or you reasonably believed there was one. For example, you might hear your neighbors fighting and fear violence. You call the police to have an officer investigate. That isn’t swatting because you did not knowingly file a false report. Instead, you had an honest, good-faith belief that a situation existed which required a police response.

Another defense is that the police didn’t respond. That happens sometimes. Swatting has become so frequent, with the same politicians targeted over and over. Now, police might simply dismiss the call.

Another defense is mistaken identity. Perhaps someone made a call to the police from your house. They might even have used your own cell phone. But that doesn’t mean you made the call. Someone could have used your phone or been staying at your house. There usually needs to be some positive ID that your voice was on the other end of the line.

We might be able to challenge the investigation as a violation of your constitutional rights. For example, the police might have seized your cell phone and started scrolling through your call log without your consent or a search warrant. We might ask a judge to suppress this evidence, which could cause your prosecution to fall apart.

Speak with a Galveston Criminal Defense Attorney

In this heated political climate, too many people are resorting to violence to settle disputes. Swatting has become a common harassment tactic, and unfortunately some people end up getting hurt. If you’ve been arrested for harassment, please call Tad Nelson & Associates today to get the aggressive legal defense you need.