Lawmakers call for stiffer penalties for ‘swatting’ instances

Posted: Updated:
Andrew Thomas Finch Andrew Thomas Finch

Kansas lawmakers are holding a public hearing on a bill aimed at increasing penalties for instances of ‘swatting’ or making false emergency calls to garner a large response.

Representative John Carmichael and Representative John Whitmer of Wichita, and Representative Patty Markley of the Kansas City area are sponsoring the bill.

“The key is to hold people accountable,” said Rep. Whitmer. “We pass a law, we put some teeth in it and maybe next time they think before they make that call.”

The current statute for false emergency calls carries at most probation and a year in jail Rep. Carmichael confirmed.

“The statutes is in place now is not as good a statute as it could be,” Rep. Carmichael said. “The purpose of this bill is to clearly define the crime that occurs when people engage in swatting or spoofing.”

House Bill 2581 is set for a public hearing on Tuesday at 1:30 p.m. in Topeka.

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says that not only did his office have a hand in writing H.B. 2581, he also says it would help future instances of ‘swatting’ calls.

“This bill as proposed has graduating penalties; A certain level of crime for making the call, a certain level of crime if someone is injured, a certain level of crime if someone is seriously injured and a highest penalty if someone is killed as a result…as opposed to the current law that has a single penalty,” Bennett said.

The new bill could carry at its highest, a 40-year jail term for instances of ‘swatting’ where someone is killed.

Bennett was quick to say that the current statutes will apply to the man accused of a deadly ‘swatting’ incident in Wichita in December of 2017, regardless of if the bill passes or fails.

“You can’t change the law and have it retroactively apply to somebody,” Bennett said.

H.B. 2581 has bipartisan support and sponsor of the bill believe that it will pass into law.  

Andrew Finch was killed by Wichita Police responding to reports of a major crime at the Finch household; the reports of the crime were false, allegedly made up by Tyler Barris, who was hundreds of miles away in a different state.

The family of the victim of a fatal swatting call in Wichita from December of 2017 is expected to be in attendance at the public hearing on Tuesday and testify.

*Disclaimer: Rep. Carmichael operates a law firm in Wichita that is working with the Finch family as the legal case makes its way through the system. 

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