NYC Swatting Lawyer

NYC Swatting Lawyer

What is swatting, and why is it a crime?

Prank phone calls were seemingly innocent enough years ago, but swatting is a relatively new crime that can lead to serious consequences.

Swatting definition

Swatting is a form of harassment in which the perpetrator places a call to law enforcement alleging that their target’s home or business address is the site of an imminent or active threat or crime.

The practice is called swatting because oftentimes the person placing the phone call will act as though the apparent threat is so serious that their target requires a SWAT team to neutralize the threat.

For those who place these swatting phone calls, the purpose is often to instill fear in their target. The person sitting inside their home or business is usually unaware any sort of call has been made until a police squad or SWAT team is breaking down their door.

At the same time, the law enforcement agency dispatched to the location is unaware that there is really no threat or ongoing crime, but they must act as though they are facing imminent danger. This can create a confusing and volatile scenario that results in property destruction, injury and sometimes death, and wastes law enforcement resources.

An internet-based crime, carried out in the real world

Often, swatting is carried out as a result of doxing, which is the practice of posting someone’s personal information in a public forum, in this case their home or work address.

Swatters will also keep their identity or phone number anonymous, and place their call to law enforcement using caller ID spoofing, or using their target’s actual phone number (from information that was doxed and posted online) which makes the call seem like a legitimate criminal threat.

In order to make a threat seem credible, alleged swatters will tell law enforcement that there is, for example, a hostage situation, an imminent bomb or explosive threat, or otherwise imply that a hostage has been killed or may be soon. This ensures that any responding law enforcement essentially enters with “guns blazing,” which can lead to an extremely terrifying and tense experience for the person being swatted.

Legal consequences

Swatting carries such grave consequences that even the FBI often provides guidance and resources to local and state law enforcement investigations. The FBI considers swatting to be a “public safety issue.”

Depending on the circumstances, those who are found to have committed a swatting crime can face a range of charges including filing a false police report, all the way up to making a terroristic threat, a charge that carries heavy legal consequences.

Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2015 introduced federal legislation to crack down on swatting after a rash of swatting incidents occurred in central New York. One attack caused over a thousand workers to be evacuated from a civic center in Syracuse, NY over an alleged threat.

Schumer’s legislation proposed stricter penalties for alleged swatters — suggesting a max sentence of eight years in prison and paying damages to law enforcement agencies who “wasted time, energy and resources as a result of a ‘swatting’ incident.” This piece of legislation was introduced to the judiciary committee but was never passed.

If you or a family member have been accused of a crime related to swatting,  please call the Law Offices of Julie Rendelman, LLC at 212-951-1232.