Florida Takes A Hardline Stance On “Swatting” And False Reports Of Crime
For anyone that has ever been falsely accused of criminal activity, it should come as welcome news that the Florida House of Representatives recently passed a measure that would stiffen sanctions for misconduct. HB 371 was enacted in the wake of two disturbing cases:
- A false report of a hostage situation led police to respond to what they believed was a dangerous emergency and an offender with a gun. Officers ended up shooting the homeowner, who was both innocent and unarmed.
- Based upon a false report of a homicide, police raided a home with a search warrant to investigate. Police later found out the caller simply wanted to watch the event, which he did from the purported victim’s Ring door cam.
Existing Florida law imposes penalties for fabricating crimes, but these recent stories have prompted lawmakers to create harsher penalties through HB 371. It is important to understand how the law could result in an arrest, as well as how it could impact your case if you were the subject of false allegations. A Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney can explain in more detail, and some general information may be useful.
Current Statute and Proposed Changes
“Swatting” is the term used by the criminal justice community to refer to making false reports in connection with a crime. The term comes from the fact that these scenarios often involve Special Weapons & Tactics (SWAT) teams being sent to an intended target’s residence or workplace.
Under the existing law, it is a First Degree Misdemeanor to make a false report of a crime based upon information the person knows is untrue. A conviction could lead to a one year jail sentence, a fine up to $1,000, or both. The changes proposed through HB 371 reclassify swatting as follows:
- It is a Third Degree Felony when false reports result in a public safety agency response that exceeds $2,000.
- Second Degree Felony charges apply when the swatting causes great bodily harm, disfigurement, or disability.
- When an individual is killed because of a false report of criminal activity, the fraudster could be arrested for a First Degree Felony.
How False Reports May Impact Your Case
Aside from the charges someone would face for violating the statute, there may be implications on the other side of a criminal case. One area of criminal law where false allegations are rampant is domestic violence, especially when one party seeks to maximize the bogus charges to gain an edge in a divorce or child custody case. An accuser is required to swear under oath that the statements about domestic violence are true, so evidence to the contrary could result in:
- Charges against the accuser under the current or amended statute on false reports of crime;
- Dismissal of any action regarding a domestic violence injunction; and
- Perjury charges against the person who makes false statements on an affidavit.
Count on a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer for Legal Details
For more information on false reports of crimes, please contact attorney Kevin J. Kulik in Fort Lauderdale, FL. We can schedule a consultation to review your circumstances and determine options for defending criminal charges.