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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: December 19, 2014 10:59 AM
From: Senator Vincent J. Hughes
To: All Senate members
Subject: Cosponsor memo #13 – Reintroduction of SB 671 (“Swatting”)
In the near future I will be reintroducing SB 671, PN 2207 of last session, which would increase penalties for making false reports to public safety agencies to address “Swatting.” Printer’s No. 2207 reflects SB 671 as amended by the Senate Judiciary Committee and unanimously reported on June 26, 2014.

Swatting involves making a fake 911 emergency call in order to draw a response from law enforcement, usually a SWAT team, or emergency service personnel. According to the FBI, these cases are often sophisticated schemes where the caller manipulates computer and phone equipment to make calls to 911 operators and uses “spoofing technology” to make it look like the calls are coming from the actual victims.

My bill would amend 18 Pa.C.S. §4905 (relating to false alarms to agencies of public safety) by authorizing the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing to adopt a sentencing enhancement where a false report to a public safety agency results in death, serious bodily injury, or bodily injury to an individual arising out of the response to the call.

In addition, courts would be authorized to order a person convicted or adjudicated to pay the state or local government unit’s costs of responding to the false report, including the use of police, fire, medical or other emergency response personnel, vehicles and teams. Costs would include the costs of salaries, wages or other compensation of any responder for time spent responding to the false report and prosecuting the offender, and costs of supplies and equipment used in responding to the false report. Similar authority to impose such costs exists in 18 Pa.C.S. §2715 (relating to threat to use weapons of mass destruction).

Responding to fake 911 calls not only costs communities money, it puts residents in danger by taking law enforcement and emergency service personnel away from real emergencies. Police, firefighters and other first responders are also put in danger in rushing to the scene and through potential altercations with unsuspecting residents who may try to defend themselves. I believe strengthening the provisions of our law will provide greater protection to our communities by creating a greater deterrent for those who may seek to engage in this activity.

Please join me in sponsoring this legislation. Previous cosponsors were WOZNIAK, RAFFERTY, BREWSTER, BROWNE, FARNESE, TARTAGLIONE and BOSCOLA.

Introduced as SB296