Alarmed that pranksters have called 911 to report false emergencies at the homes of celebrities including Justin Bieber and Tom Cruise, two Southern California legislators have proposed laws to get tougher with anyone engaged in “swatting.”
A bill announced Wednesday by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) would allow longer sentences for and greater restitution from those convicted of making false reports to the police. Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca asked for the measure.
A similar proposal has been introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).
“The recent spate of phony reports to law enforcement officials that the home of an actor or singer is being robbed or held hostage is dangerous, and it’s only a matter of time before there’s a tragic accident,” said Lieu.
I haven’t had a chance to look at the actual language to see what would change, so we’re dependent on the L.A. Times description, which makes it sound like . . . not much:
Gatto and Lieu both propose that those convicted of making false 911 reports be liable for all costs associated with the police response. Such pranks are “a complete waste of law enforcement resources,” said Gatto.
The Assemblyman’s measure, AB 47, would also increase the maximum fine for conviction from $1,000 to $10,000 and make it easier to file murder charges if someone is killed in a swatting incident.
Existing penalties for false 911 reports include up to one year in jail, but an offender may get probation with no jail time. Lieu, a military reserve prosecutor, wants to set a minimum sentence of 120 days in jail.
Lieu’s proposal also would make it easier to charge someone with a felony if a victim is hurt as a result of a prank call. In felony cases, the penalty could increase to three years in jail. And prosecutors would no longer have to show that the prankster knew injury or death would occur.
I would imagine it’s already possible to collect restitution for the costs of response. I’m not sure how they would make a murder charge easier, but I’m for that — although I would think you could already pursue a murder charge under existing law. From this description, all this bill really does is set a “mandatory” minimum jail time for a misdemeanor, and make it easier to file a three-year felony. Big whoop, says me.