It is illegal to intentionally make a false report of a crime to law enforcement. In most cases, it's a misdemeanor. However, depending on the type of crime reported and the amount of manpower called out to deal with it, the person accused of making the false report can be charged with a felony.
That's what has occurred in a recent high-profile case of "swatting" that had tragic consequences. (Swatting refers to a SWAT team or similar law enforcement response.)
A 25-year-old man allegedly called police halfway across the country to report a domestic violence situation that involved a shooting and a hostage. When a 28-year-old man opened the door at the address given by the caller, police fatally shot him after he reportedly reached toward his waist. The two young men had gotten into a war of words while playing the online video game "Call of Duty: WWII."
The man who made the call has been charged with felony false alarm. He has previously served time for making a bomb threat and reportedly has expressed an interest in swatting.
Most cases of false criminal accusations don't end this way. However, the law takes them seriously, whether they are done as a prank or for revenge. They waste law enforcement agencies' time, money and resources. They can also result in physical and/or psychological harm to the person targeted.
People who make these false accusations can face civil liability in addition to criminal penalties. Plaintiffs can sue for compensatory as well as punitive damages for the harm done to them.
Sometimes, of course, people call the police because they believe that a crime has been or is being committed. If it turns out they were wrong, they won't face charges if their actions under the circumstances were reasonable.
If you or your child has been arrested for swatting or otherwise falsely reporting a crime, it's essential to seek guidance from an experienced Tennessee criminal defense attorney.
Source: FindLaw, "Is It a Crime to Falsely Accuse Someone of a Crime?," George Khoury, accessed Jan. 11, 2018