When "Harmless" Pranks Go Wrong, The Joke's On You

For many kids in college or high school education doesn't happen exclusively in the classroom. The social activities they participate in do as much to define their educational experience as their actual classes. This might mean joining fraternities or sororities that ask for members to complete an initiation process. Or it might mean succumbing to peer pressure and playing a joke on someone else. While many of these bring a laugh or two, some could wind up bringing police officers to your doorstep. Participating in a prank doesn't make you a hardened criminal, but it could give you a taste of the criminal justice system you never thought you'd have, and can potentially have a big impact on your future. If this does happen to you, it's important to respond appropriately in order to avoid adding unnecessarily complications to your case.

If You're Arrested

If cops do come to your door after you have participated in a prank, it is important that you exercise all of your rights while being respectful of the officer(s) involved. To start this means you can't be forced to answer any questions, you must be read your rights, your room, apartment, or home cannot be searched without a warrant, and you will be given access to an attorney. If you're lucky, the arresting "officer" will turn out to be another prankster trying to scare you (which would also be illegal, impersonating an officer), but it is best to cooperate and not take any chances.

Pick Your Own Attorney

While the court will assign you an attorney, whenever possible, it is better to take control of your own future by at least consulting with someone that the state hasn't handpicked. Be truthful with your lawyer about your involvement in a prank, and be open to suggestions that may be granted. The seriousness of the charges could vary considerably depending on what was done and whether long term harm was actually inflicted. There are various strategies that an attorney can use to get cases settled quickly with either a reduced charge, or by getting some charges to be dropped all together. They can examine the evidence and determine whether it was legitimate, or if the arrest was conducted by the book. In many cases, a good defense lawyer can also work with the prosecution and the victim to get charges dropped, especially if pressing charges was meant to teach you a lesson.

Wrongly Accused

If you are wrongly accused of pulling a prank, or are accused of being involved when you know little or nothing about an incident it is still important that you have a qualified lawyer on your side. Some assume that since they are innocent that justice will ultimately prevail, however, it's not that simple. A dedicated attorney will give you the best chance of getting to the bottom of what happened, so you can get on with your life.

Source: http://academic.cuesta.edu/training/training_materials/Internet_Pranks_Jail_Time.pdf, http://blogs.findlaw.com/blotter/2013/05/7-ways-senior-pranks-can-get-you-arrested.html

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