Alabama Lawmaker Takes Action to Criminalize ‘Swatting’

A member of the Alabama House of Representatives has pre-filed legislation to make making fraudulent calls to summon police a criminal offense. Democrat Phillip Ensler claims his bill was inspired by two high-profile incidences of “swatting,” one at a Pell City Walmart and one at his own Synagogue.

The Pell City Police Department said it got a 911 call reporting an active shooting involving two to three people in a break room at a local Walmart.

Authorities said the caller provided police with a thorough description of the occurrence, which looked to be factual. However, 911 dispatchers lost contact with the caller as authorities approached the establishment.

The Walmart was evacuated three times, but police discovered no proof of a crime. Pell City Police Chief Clay Morris informed local media that nine law enforcement organizations responded to the call. He described the episode as a waste of local resources.

One high-profile “swatting” incident included the judge in Donald Trump’s Federal election subversion case. The Associated Press reported that Judge Tanya Chutkin’s home was targeted by a bogus emergency, the latest in a string of similar false swatting allegations at public figures’ residences.

Police said they responded to claims of a shooting at a Washington, D.C., residence linked in public records to U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, but discovered that no shooting occurred.

Chutkan has faced numerous threats since she was handed the case. There has also been an increase in swatting efforts against public officials and phony bomb threats at state capitols and courthouses, which Attorney General Merrick Garland has deemed intolerable.

Alabama House member Ensler’s measure would criminalize phony police calls. The culprits would have to make restitution for the time and resources expended by law enforcement agencies. Furthermore, the charges against criminals would be consistent with the fake offenses they recorded.

For example, if a swatting call is made in connection with a criminal, the defendant may face a class C felony prosecution. Furthermore, if someone is critically hurt during the emergency response, the charge will be elevated to a class A felony. Ensler said he hopes House Bill 78 if passed, will prevent these ‘ swatting’ calls from occurring.

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