It is illegal to make an unlawful request for emergency service assistance, which includes knowingly transmitting false or misleading information to request law enforcement, fire, medical, or other emergency services when there is no reasonable ground for believing such assistance is needed. Violating this law can result in a range of penalties, including misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the severity of the offense and the harm caused by the response from emergency services.
Continue reading to learn the law, penalties, and potential defenses to falsely calling the police.
What Does The Law Say?
If you’ve accidentally sat down on your phone and accidentally dialed the police then you know how easy it is to call the police by accident. In this instance, this isn’t want were talking about.
In the state of Kansas, they provide a clear example of when it becomes a crime to call the police for no reason.
Kansas summarizes this as an unlawful request for emergency service assistance and states that it can be described as “Making an unlawful request for emergency service assistance is transmitting or communicating false or misleading information in any manner to request emergency service assistance including law enforcement, fire, medical or other emergency services, knowing at the time of such request there is no reasonable ground for believing such assistance is needed.”
Here’s a list of penalties for making an unlawful request for emergency service assistance:
- Class A nonperson misdemeanor, except as provided in subsections (b)(2)-(6)
- Severity level 10, nonperson felony if an electronic device or software is used to conceal the source or identity of the request, except as provided in subsections (b)(3)-(6)
- Severity level 7, nonperson felony if false information is given about violent criminal activity, immediate threat to a person’s life or safety, or public safety, except as provided in subsections (b)(4)-(6)
- Severity level 6, person felony if bodily harm results from the response by emergency services, except as provided in subsections (b)(5) and (b)(6)
- Severity level 4, person felony if great bodily harm results from the response by emergency services, except as provided in subsection (b)(6)
- Severity level 1, person felony if death results from the response by emergency services.
Offenders may also be prosecuted for interference with law enforcement, and it is not a defense that the person who suffered harm contributed to it. Additionally, violators may also be prosecuted for any form of homicide.
Now that you’ve read into the possible charges and the different criteria that need to be charged, these are the punishments that come with each one.
- Class A nonperson Misdemeanor: maximum sentence of one year’s jail time and a $2,500 fine
- Severity Level 10 nonperson Felony: 5 to 13 months (approx. 5 months to 1 year)
- Severity Level 7 nonperson Felony: 11 to 34 months (approx. 1 to 3 years)
- Severity Level 6 person Felony: 17 to 46 months (approx. 1.5 to 4 years)
- Severity Level 4 person Felony: 38 to 172 months (approx. 3 to 14 years)
- Severity Level 1 person Felony: 147 to 653 months (approx. 12 to 54 years)
Of course, more can be added to this or reduced, so it’ll depend on your specific case.
If someone is charged with making an unlawful request for emergency service assistance, there may be a few potential defenses they could raise, depending on the circumstances. Here are a few possible examples:
- Mistaken belief: If the person genuinely believed that an emergency situation existed and made the call in good faith, they may be able to argue that they did not knowingly or intentionally make a false report. However, this defense may be harder to raise if there is clear evidence that the person knew or should have known that the report was false.
- First Amendment rights: The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, including the right to make statements that may be false or misleading. If the person can argue that their call to the police was an expression of their opinions or beliefs, rather than an attempt to defraud or deceive the emergency services, they may be able to claim that their speech was protected.
- Lack of intent: Depending on the wording of the specific law or ordinance that the person is charged with violating, they may be able to argue that they did not have the intent to make a false report, or that their actions did not rise to the level of criminal behavior.
- Duress or necessity: In some cases, a person may be able to argue that they were forced to make the call by someone else, or that they had no other choice but to call the police in order to protect themselves or others. This defense would likely be more successful if the person had a reasonable belief that they were in danger, or if they were acting under the influence of a threat or coercion.
It’s important to note that the effectiveness of any defense will depend on the specific facts of the case, as well as the jurisdiction and the laws involved.
Here is an example of an individual who illegally called the police for no reason:
- In 2020, a woman in Texas called 911 to complain that her chicken nuggets at McDonald’s were taking too long. The operator tried to explain that it was not an emergency and advised her to speak to the restaurant manager, but the woman insisted that the police be called. She was eventually charged with misuse of the emergency system.
What To Do If You Accidentally Call 911?
We’ve all been there, accidentally dialing the emergency number on our phones or hitting the emergency button on our devices. In such a scenario, it’s essential to stay calm and answer the operator’s questions.
If you accidentally call 911, don’t worry, it’s perfectly okay! The operator will likely ask you if you’re okay and confirm that there is no emergency that needs to be addressed. It’s important, to be honest with the operator and provide them with accurate information, even if you’re feeling embarrassed or worried.
What Happens If You Call 911 And Hang Up?
If you’ve already called 911 and hung up, you should expect a call back from the dispatch shortly. When you dial 911, the operator has access to your phone number and location. Therefore, even if you hang up without providing any information, the operator will assume that there is an emergency, and a deputy will be dispatched to your location to ensure that you’re alright.
I remember one time I accidentally called 911 when my phone was in my pocket, and I didn’t even realize it. When I felt the phone vibrate, I took it out of my pocket and saw that the emergency call was in progress. I immediately panicked and hung up, hoping that nothing would happen. However, within seconds, my phone rang, and it was the emergency dispatcher calling me back. I felt embarrassed and explained that it was an accident, and the dispatcher was understanding and assured me that it happens all the time.
When to Seek an Attorney
If you have been charged with making an unlawful request for emergency service assistance, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The penalties for violating this law can be severe, including potential felony charges and significant fines, and an attorney can help you understand the charges you are facing and develop a strong defense strategy. Additionally, an attorney can represent you in court and negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf to try to mitigate the charges or penalties you are facing.