New Ohio Senate Bill Aims to Make ‘Swatting’ a Felony

In response to eight Ohio schools going into lockdown last Friday, due to an internet hoax that sent false reports about active shooters on their campuses, additional support has been gathered for State Senator Andrew Brenner’s (R-Delaware) bill (SB292) to stop “swatting” by making fake emergency calls a felony in the state.

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, “swatting” is: to make a false report of an ongoing serious crime in order to elicit a response from law enforcement, such as the dispatch of a SWAT unit.

Brenner’s bill (SB292) along with a companion piece of legislation (HB462) sponsored by State Representative Kevin Miller (R-Newark), are under consideration in the Ohio House. This legislation would make it a third-degree felony for an individual to participate in swatting. If injury or death occurred as a result of the false report, the incident would be escalated to a first-degree felony. Repercussions of engaging in such activities could also make the individual liable for restitution costs and the costs that occurred from the emergency responders.

Current Ohio law against swatting states that false reports to emergency teams are considered a first-degree misdemeanor unless that threat involves a bomb.

This bill would be applicable in situations such as the active-shooter hoax which occurred in Ohio schools last week. But it would also apply to popular swatting incidents involving video gamers sending law enforcement to their friends’ and rivals’ homes, then streaming the incident online to gain internet notoriety.

SB292 was introduced into the general assembly in February of this year. However, the bill has gathered additional support in tandem with a recent increase in fake emergency calls and active-shooter hoaxes.

Brenner and Miller have said that they want to prevent these fake emergency reports, which cause unnecessary panic.

“Some people may say the penalty is too harsh, but I think it’s too harsh to have someone dying or getting shot as a result of one of these instances,” said Brenner.

Brenner told The Ohio Star that he believes that the bill can be passed once lawmakers come back into session in November and believe it can be completed before the general assembly ends its work at the end of the calendar year. He expects that the bill will obtain bipartisan support.

“If we pass it, will we prevent every one of them? No, but the schools and everyone else can use it as a deterrent. You are going to go to jail and will potentially endure the costs if you do this,” said Brenner.

SB 292 is currently under review by the Ohio Senate Judiciary Committee.

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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “FBI Swat Team” by U.S. Army Materiel Command. CC BY 2.0.

 

 

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