Is It Illegal to Make Prank Phone Calls?

By Peek & Toland on October 6, 2019

While there is no specific law prohibiting individuals from making prank phone calls, these calls can constitute harassment in some circumstances. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 42.07, unlawful harassment occurs when individuals take the following actions, among others:

  • Making obscene or threatening phone calls
  • Calling people and falsely telling them that a person has suffered bodily injury or death
  • Making repeated phone calls anonymously or in a manner designed to harass, offend, alarm, or annoy others
  • Intentionally failing to hang up the phone or disengage the connection when making a call
  • Permitting their phones to be used for the purposes of harassment

Harassment is generally a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law. However, the offense increases to a Class A misdemeanor if certain aggravating factors exist, such as individuals who have a prior harassment conviction. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor can result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000. For a Class A misdemeanor, the potential jail time increases to a maximum of one year and the fine to a maximum of $4,000.

Is It Illegal to Make Prank Phone Calls?

Furthermore, it is a specific criminal offense under Texas law to prank call 911 services. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 42.061, individuals break the law when they call 911 and knowingly remain silent or make abusive or harassing comments to the person answering the phone. Individuals also violate this code section when they allow their phones to be used for this purpose. Making silent or abusive calls to 911 service is a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law.

When you are facing any criminal charges in the State of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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Governor Rejects Expanded Definition of Harassment Proposed by Texas Legislature

By Peek & Toland on August 9, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vetoed a bill that would have expanded the existing cyberbullying law to include indirect bullying, such as when people post or send hostile messages to others about a person they are bullying. Advocates stated that the bill would have closed a loophole in the current law, which can subject to children to continued bullying, even if it is not directed toward the children themselves. For instance, the bill would have addressed the situation last year in which a Texas middle school student posted videos online on six female classmates along with obscene comments. This situation resulted in harassment by other students and one of the targeted students attempted suicide.

Governor Rejects Expanded Definition of Harassment Proposed by Texas Legislature

Gov. Abbott characterized the bill as overbroad, in that it would include behaviors that the legislature did not intend to criminalize, such as members of the public who criticize public officials in social media posts. The bill would have targeted online posts that were likely to “annoy” or “harass” others, which arguably could include the criticisms of elected officials. Critics of the measure also cited potential legal challenges to the bill if the Governor were to sign it into law.

Although the legislature was successful in establishing new laws and funding related to sexual assault, various bills addressing different aspects of sexual harassment, particularly in the workplace, all died. Much of the pushback on these bills came from the business lobby, which has been historically resistant to any expanded rights for workers. Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals to resolve their criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.

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How Can I Stop Someone From Sending Me Harassing Text Messages?

By Peek & Toland on June 4, 2019

Harassment consists of any unwanted or repeated conduct, which includes harassing text messages. This definition also encompasses in-person contact, phone calls, emails, and any other types of contact via the Internet. In fact, the text messages or other unwanted communications do not have to be specifically threatening in any way to constitute harassment. So long as the contact is unwanted, the text messages qualify as harassment.

There are some practical steps that you can take to fight back against unwanted harassing text messages. First, you should take screenshots or photographs of the text messages. Go one step further to protect your documentation of the messages by protecting or locking them on your device and creating backups of the images so that you don’t lose them in the event of a system back-up or accidental deletion.

Next, download your cell phone activity records. If you have difficulty accessing these records, you can contact your cell phone service provider for help. Save the downloaded files and print out a hard copy to review. On the printed copy, you can make it easier for law enforcement authorities to review the records by highlighting the number of harassing text messages or phone calls that you have received.

If you have taken any action to stop the harassment yourself, you also should provide documentation of those actions. For instance, if you sent the harasser a text message asking him or her to stop texting you, you should include a screenshot of that text message.

As most people know the person who is harassing them, whether due to a prior relationship or friendship, co-worker relationship, or another context, you should detail the history of your relationship and contact with that person. If you exchanged Facebook messages, text messages, email messages, or had other forms of communication, you should document as many details as you can remember so that law enforcement authorities have a clear understanding of any prior relationship that you had with the person who is now harassing you.

Finally, you should make a copy of all your documentation for your own files, add your contact information, and go to the local police state to make a formal police report about the harassment that you are enduring. This is the best way to document your efforts to make the harassment stop.

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the outset of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case has progressed. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

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