September 11, 2018

What Is Swatting? Dallas Lawyer for Best & Aggressive Criminal Defense Explains

Swatting may have originated as a prank, but it has had life-threatening consequences. Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer

Most people think of “swatting” as something you might do to shoo away a fly away. However, the term also refers to a dangerous — and increasingly popular — type of crime that has resulted in fatalities. According to FBI reports, there are about 400 swatting cases every year.  

Swatting, which refers to a police SWAT team, occurs when an individual calls the police and makes a false claim that a serious crime is in progress at another person’s home. The purpose of swatting is to send a heavily armed SWAT team or other specialized force busting into an innocent person’s house, where police are likely to frighten them.

In some cases, accused swatters have called in hostage situations, while in other cases, they have falsely claimed someone was making a bomb or threatening to take their own life.   

Swatting may have originated as a prank, but it has had life-threatening consequences. Additionally, it wastes police resources, damages property and leaves the victims with what can be lifelong trauma.

Swatting Can Be Catastrophic

In recent years, a number of high-profile swatting cases have demonstrated the serious and often deadly consequences of calling in false reports to police. As one report explains, swatting began as a type of prank played on video game live-streamers. Popular gaming consoles allow players from all over to connect with each other online. At some point, someone decided it would be funny to call in a fake police report, with other users listening in on his or her headsets as police burst into the victim’s home.

Over time, swatting has evolved, with people calling in false reports on celebrities, schools, businesses, and even strangers. Technology has presented police with numerous challenges, as cybercriminals can use the internet to make it seem like a distress call originates from the swatting victim’s home.

Because police usually have no way to tell that the distress call is fake, they have no option but to respond with a bomb squad, SWAT team, or another emergency unit. Many cases show that being a victim of swatting can lead to devastating results for the victims involved.

  • Texas – In Texas in April 2018, a family in Arlington were the victims of a swatting incident in which police swarmed their home with weapons drawn. Although no one was hurt in the incident, the victims said he or she were both left shaken by the encounter with police.

  • Kansas – The New York Times reports that a California man was indicted in 2018 after he called in a false report that resulted in police fatally shooting the victim, a man who lived in Kansas. The report goes on to state that the hoax wasn’t even intended for the victim, as the caller realized he gave police the wrong address. The report also states that the swatting case originated in a gaming live-stream between one player that reportedly got angry with another player. The indictment includes charges for making a false police report, cyberstalking, making interstate threats, and wire fraud. The defendant was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. Reports state that the defendant had a prior history of making swatting calls.  

  • Michigan – In a 2018 swatting incident in Michigan, schools were put on lockdown after someone called in a false police report.

There have also been several cases in which celebrities have been the targets of swatting. Victims include Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Rihanna, Tom Cruise, and Clint Eastwood. Reports also state that a 12-year-old boy was charged with two felonies for swatting actor Ashton Kutcher in 2013.

In many swatting cases, prosecutors charge those responsible with a long list of crimes. Because swatting involves filing a false police report, many swatters find themselves facing a felony charge for making a false report. They may also face charges for misusing police or emergency resources.

Furthermore, many swatting incidents have involved the internet, especially in cases involving gamers. In cases where a swatter targets a victim who lives in another state, prosecutors often have the option to charge the swatter in federal court for making interstate threats.

In the swatting case out of California, for example, the defendant made a false report to police in Kansas, which resulted in the death of a completely innocent man who wasn’t even the intended victim in the first place. In Kansas, a conviction for involuntary manslaughter carries a maximum prison sentence of 136 months, which means the defendant could spend years in prison if convicted.

While swatting may have originated as a prank, it’s a real crime that can cause permanent psychological damage to the victims, as well as forever change the lives of the people who make these kinds of false reports. In the most devastating cases, police kill the victim, who may make sudden movements or react in anger or confusing when police burst inside their home.

John Helms - Dallas Lawyer for Best & Aggressive Criminal Defense

Law Office of John M. Helms

12240 Inwood Rd #220, Dallas, TX 75244



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