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Misuse of 911

Misuse of 911 - the emergency telephone line that connects people who need help to first responders - is a criminal offense in Florida. As our Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyers can explain, the penalties can be more serious than you might thing.

Since grade school, we’ve all been taught to call 911 in the event of an emergency. Operators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in every municipality across the United States in order to extend emergency services of the public safety agencies to the taxpayers if and when they need them. The appropriate agency is dispatched and sent out to the scene of the emergency at the request of the caller. Having this emergency response system in place has literally made the difference between life and death for millions of people.

When 911 is used improperly to report false information or create a false alarm, it slows down the system for those in need. Thus, the state of Florida has via F.S. 365.172(14) classifies Misuse of 911 as a misdemeanor of the first degree, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for the first four offenses. 

One example of a Florida case involving Misuse of 911 services was a 29-year old Tampa man who called 911 asking the operator for sex. According to the police report, a man called 911 because he ran out of minutes on his phone plan, and 911 was the only free number he could call. He then proceeded to ask the operator about her clothing and her body parts, making obscene remarks about the operator and about masturbation. 15 minutes later, the police arrived at his house and arrested him for misuse of 911. Due to his criminal history, he was taken to jail and held on a $1,500 bond.

If a person is convicted of unauthorized use of 911 four times and continues to misuse the service, they will be charged again with the same crime, only on the fifth time it is enhanced to a felony of the third degree. A Felony Misuse of 911 charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000. Another example of a Florida Felony Misuse of 911 case is a man who called the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office 18 times over a period of two months. His calls were all made to accuse a Deputy Sheriff who lived in his neighborhood of allegedly making out with a prostitute who lived across the street from him. Since the number of calls exceeded four, he was charged with Felony Misuse of 911 and taken to jail.

Although these are extreme cases, an individual could call 911 appropriately out of legitimate fear and find that the reason for their call was false, and end up with a misdemeanor charge for Misuse of 911. To meet the proof burden, prosecutors would need to show that the caller knowingly misused the emergency line. 

The South Florida criminal defense attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm know that there is always more than one side to a story, and are ready to provide quality legal representation to anybody charged with a crime in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

If you or a loved one have recently been charged with Misuse of 911, call the South Florida criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm at (954) 761-4011 immediately for quality legal representation. 

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