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New Criminal Offense: Unlawful Request for Emergency Services Assistance

Posted by Sean A. Black | Jun 10, 2019 | 0 Comments

Georgia has updated its old crime of Transmitting a False Alarm.  

Unlawful Request for Emergency Services Assistance occurs:

  • when an individual transmits a request for emergency assistance
    • when there is no reasonable ground for believing the truth of the information which forms the basis of such report or warning AND
    • The request has to do with:
      • a purported hazardous device or substance
      • a purported individual threatening harm to themselves or another with a deadly weapon
      • an individual purported to have committed a criminal act involving the use or threat of physical force or violence or an act committing an immediate threat to a person's life or safety; or
      • the use of any electronic device or software to alter, conceal, disguise or attempt to alter, conceal or disguise the identity or location of the person making the request.

The last subsection addresses the issue of calls or requests made from a "spoofed" source, that is a source that is not what it appears.

The main purpose of these changes is to combat the act of swatting, whereby the use of police response to an emergency is weaponized to cause problems for the recipient.  Swatting is the action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.  This type of activity can be extremely hazardous and puts the lives of the recipient and their housemates as well as emergency services at risk.

Accordingly, it can carry significant penalties.  If injury or death occurs as a result of the unlawful request, the person can be sentenced up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

An unlawful request involving a location which constitutes critical infrastructure is also a felony carrying up to 10 years in priosn and a $5,000 fine.  Critical infrastructure is defined fairly broadly as an building, place of assembly or facility located in the state and necessary for national or public security, education or public safety.  

In general, the offense is misdemeanor of a high and aggravated nature and carries up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

2019-2020 Georgia HB 118 / OCGA § 16-10-28 

About the Author

Sean A. Black

Sean A. Black is a 1992 graduate of the Emory University School of Law. He has been in private practice in Toccoa, Georgia since June 1, 1992.


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