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Can a common Internet prank result in criminal charges?

Like many Americans, you may play online computer or console games to unwind after a tough day at work, or you might enjoy a healthy debate about politics or current events. Any Ohio resident who spends a decent amount of time online knows that disagreements are not uncommon. Some people, however, can take an argument to a whole different level.

Before you end up making a mistake that may cost you your freedom, you should understand that not all Internet jokes are harmless. There is a prank called "swatting" that, for years, has caused trouble and heartache for people across the country. According to Vox, the swatting prank often occurs after an online gaming or message board disagreement. Someone will call authorities and make a false police report to draw law enforcement or armed SWAT teams to the unsuspecting prank victim's address.

You may have heard about a swatting prank last December that went terribly wrong. After a man reported to police that he had shot family members and was holding others hostage, then gave an address, police showed up at the residence with their guns drawn. The unarmed man was shot and killed when he made a movement that officers mistook as reaching for a weapon. Authorities later discovered that the man had been targeted after an online gaming dispute, although he had not been involved in the game. The latest reports say that the suspect who called in the prank is facing manslaughter charges, and other suspects have been identified.

It is important to consider the potential consequences before taking part in an Internet joke that seems at first glance to be harmless. Since this is a complex topic, the content in this blog should not replace the advice of a defense attorney.

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