It may seem silly to think that prank calls could land you in legal trouble, but you may face criminal penalties for a crime called “telephone abuse” in Utah. Under the Utah Criminal Code, telephone abuse falls under a broader category of crimes involving abuse utilizing electronic communications. You can not only be charged with abuse or harassment over the phone but by other forms of communications such as text messages, emails, or even a fax machine. It is essential to know the difference between a harmless prank and abusive behavior.
Telephone abuse and related crimes are severe matters in Salt Lake City and the rest of Utah. If you have been charged with a form of abuse by electronic communications, you should contact an attorney right away. To schedule a free legal consultation with an experienced Utah lawyer for criminal code 76-9-2 telephone abuse charges in Salt Lake City, contact Overson & Bugden at (801) 758-2287.
What is Telephone Abuse in Utah?
In Utah, telephone abuse can involve making phone calls with the intent of harassing, intimidating, abusing, threatening, or frightening the recipient. This abuse is not limited to just telephone calls, though. You may also be charged for making abusive, threatening, or intimidating contact with someone by other means of electronic communication that transmits audio, image, or text to a specifically targeted individual. Such communications may include phone calls, emails, text messages, or other forms of instant messaging. As with radio or television, broadcast transmissions are not included because those transmissions do not target specific people.
Telephone abuse also includes the misuse of emergency reporting. Electronic communication, especially phones, are crucial to reporting emergencies to the police, fire department, or emergency medical responders. Abusing this reporting system may constitute a crime. Emergency reporting abuse may include making false 911 calls or refusing to yield a public phone to someone else who needs to make an emergency call. For more information on telephone abuse, contact a Utah lawyer for criminal code 76-9-2 telephone abuse charges at Overson & Bugden.
Electronic Communication Harassment in Utah
The key difference between a harmless prank phone call and abusive criminal activity is time. Telephone abuse, or abuse by other means of electronic communication, is not only abusive but repetitive. Making one prank call once likely won’t land you in too much trouble. Make prank calls repeatedly to the same person, and suddenly you are guilty of telephone abuse. Not only that, but telephone abuse requires a particular intent on the part of the person making the call. The caller must intend to abuse, harass, or frighten the recipient, or otherwise disrupt the recipient’s electronic communications.
Generally, this kind of behavior becomes abusive when the caller makes repeated abusive phone calls to someone. That person then tells the caller to stop contacting them, making it clear they do not welcome the caller’s abusive behavior. If the caller continues to contact the recipient with abusive calls or messages, their behavior may be punished criminally. This behavior includes voice and text messages to the recipient as well as causing their phone or device to ring or receive message notifications continuously.
Abuse of Emergency Reporting in Utah
Abuse of emergency reporting differs from ordinary telephone abuse because it does not need to occur repeatedly over time. This kind of abuse involves interfering with the electronic communication of emergency reporting systems, such as 911 calls, or preventing others from making such emergency calls. This action is a very serious offense as you may prevent real emergencies from being reported to those who may help.
A person may be guilty of this offense if they intentionally refuse to surrender the use of a phone or electronic communication device to someone who needs it to report an emergency, such as a crime, fire, or medical emergency. It may also occur when someone falsely claims they need a phone to make an emergency call. Additionally, a person may be guilty of this offense if they make, or cause someone else to make, a false report to any entity or group whose duty is to respond to specific emergencies. Making false reports that an ongoing emergency at a particular location is occurring that involves a threat of serious bodily harm is also considered abuse of emergency reporting.
What Are the Penalties for Telephone Abuse in Utah?
Telephone abuse may be prosecuted in the jurisdiction where the communications originated or where the communication was received. This means you may be prosecuted in Salt Lake City for making abusive phone calls to or from the city, regardless of where the person on the other end of the call was located. A Utah lawyer for criminal code 76-9-2 telephone abuse charges at Overson & Bugden can help you with any charges you face in Salt Lake City.
The first offense for telephone abuse, if committed against an adult, is a class B misdemeanor. If it is committed against a minor, the charges are upgraded to a class A misdemeanor. Subsequent offenses would be class A misdemeanors if all prior offenses were committed against an adult. Subsequent offenses would be third degree felonies if any prior offenses were committed against a minor.
Penalties for the abuse of emergency reporting can range from a misdemeanor to felony charges. Refusing to yield a phone so someone may report an emergency is a class C misdemeanor but making a false emergency report to a non-government entity is a class B misdemeanor. These charges will be upgraded to a second-degree felony if the false report involves a weapon of mass destruction. For example, calling in a fake bomb threat would be a second-degree felony. Making a false report to a government entity, like a 911 dispatcher or the police, is a third-degree felony. If responders are injured while responding to the fake call, the charges will be upgraded to a second-degree felony.
The court may also make you pay back any costs incurred by emergency responders by responding to your false report.
Contact a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer to Fight Your Telephone Abuse Charges
If you or someone you know has been charged with telephone abuse or the abuse of emergency reporting systems, please contact an experienced attorney immediately. You may want to brush the incident off as simple prank calls, but the state takes these crimes very seriously. Contact a Utah lawyer for criminal code 76-9-2 telephone abuse charges today at Overson & Bugden by calling (801) 758-2287.