April Fools is the official day to pull a prank, but the occasion for a good practical joke seems to be any time for teens and college students. What initially seemed like fun or a harmless bit of silliness can land the perpetrators in the back of a squad car.
Here are some legal charges that can result from lapses in common sense:
- 1. Harassment - The most common charge. Being obnoxious in this day and age can be enough to qualify as harassment. This includes phone calls where threatening remarks are made or repetitive dialing day after day.
- 2. Disorderly conduct - This can of course include boorish behavior, but it can also apply to using language that is intended to be demeaning or to arouse anger in others. It must be more than a dumb joke, but not much more.
- 3. Hate crimes - This is similar to harassment, but the underlying premise is an attack on one's sexuality, race, religion or country of origin. If an individual mocks another individual by citing one of the above characteristics, it will likely be considered a hate crime.
There also may be more specific laws within a jurisdiction (such as a campus or at work) where the guidelines can be more extensive than the state or federal laws.
If you or your child is has been charged with something that started as joke, it is wise to reach out to a criminal defense attorney. One misguided college prank can put a black mark on a student's record, which can lead to severe penalties and a mark their or your criminal record. This can also, among other things, impact the chances of finding a job after school. It's best to consult an attorney to see what can be done to have the charges reduced or dismissed.