"Do You Have Prince Albert In A Can"
and Other Prank Calls and Penalties
7/20/2017 - Article by Nevada criminal defense attorney Nick Wooldridge, Esq
Life was simpler in the 1950s. Call the grocer and ask, "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" Or, "Is your refrigerator running?"
It was harmless fun. Usually carried out by elementary school boys or a drunk veteran. No harm, no foul and everyone got a laugh. Well, maybe not the person on the receiving end of the call who had already been asked about Prince Albert's safety 100 times that week.
Now, in 2017, try the same thing, and you're going to jail — at worst and get a citation at best. But the laughs won't be happening.
In Mumbai, a man called a bank employee and offered to sell a pre-launch deal for a new home — to be built in 2020. The caller was retaliating the prank calls he had been receiving by the bank employee.
A total of 65 telephone calls were made by the bank employee to the irate recipient — in January 2017 alone. It all began when the bank employee called the victim on January 1 with New Year loan offers.
The callee said no and asked not to be called again. The calls kept coming, and each time the banker called, a new tactic or twist was rolled out.
When the situation went to court, the bank employee lost his job, and the target of his repeated calls lost his phone service.
In 2016, over 46,000 prank calls were made to the state funded emergency management research institute or EMRI. Around 10% of those calls were from kids and were made from semi-urban areas or small towns. The calls, which clog India's already clogged lines have triggered a response from the government. Now, computer software has been installed that will block individuals who prank call more than ten times a day.
Jamaica's Minister of National Security Robert Montague has appealed to Jamaicans not to abuse the police emergency number for the island nation.
Montague told reporters that out of 32,000 calls to the 119 emergency number, 22,000 are a prank and are clogging up the phone lines.
"We are appealing to people to stop playing with the emergency services," Montague told the press.
Yeah. But Is It Illegal?
Maybe. The legality — and resulting punishment — depend on several factors. Was it one call made to a good friend? Was it a harassing or threatening call made to a former friend or even a stranger?
Were there multiple calls made with the intention of harassing someone — like maybe an ex?
Section 73.1206 of the FCC rules prohibit the broadcast or recording with the intent of broadcasting, telephone calls without getting the consent of the individual on the other end of the line.
So how does Houston's Roula & Ryan's Roses on KRBE radio get away with prank calling people on the air? Simple. They've already made arrangements with the alleged ‘victim' and have obtained the victim's ‘ok' to go along with the prank. You thought just ‘professional wrestling' was fake?
Another report from the FCC regarding silly calls is the TCPA (PDF Link) which is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. There is a slight remark of prank calls in the document which reads:
While designating home phone numbers on the federal Do-Not-Call list forbids telephone solicitations, this does not mean prank or aggravating calls are illegal. For concerns about such calls, talk with local law enforcement offices.
Apparently prank calls are not a matter for the FCC but rather local law enforcement.
When all's said and done, it appears that making those prank calls will get you some serious jail time — or not. But get ready to pay exuberant fees to the bail bonds industry if you want to continue making calls from the comfort of your home while your case is pending.
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