Ohio House Passes Bill To Make Hoax Emergency Calls A Felony

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Intentional false reports about school shootings and other hoax emergency calls could be prosecuted as a felony under legislation passed by the Republican-led Ohio House on Wednesday.

The bill would create a felony offense for “swatting,” which is when someone knowingly reports a false emergency that prompts response by law enforcement, such as a kidnapping, school shooting or other violent crimes. Supporters of the bill say such situations cause unnecessary panic, disruption and expense, and can end with innocent people being arrested or harmed.

GOP Rep. Kevin Miller, of Newark, who sponsored the legislation, said such false alarms can “create highly charged incidents” that end in tragedy.

The legislation would make “swatting” a third-degree felony, and if a person is physically harmed during a resulting police response, it would be a first-degree felony. Those convicted could also be financially responsible for the costs of the law enforcement response.

The state public defender's office opposed the bill, arguing that there’s no need because penalties for false reporting of crimes already exist in Ohio law and the proposal would overcomplicate that.

The measure will next go to the Senate.

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Samantha Hendrickson is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.