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We have all seen someone pull a prank at some point in our lives. A search on Youtube will pull up millions of it. We may even have pulled a few ourselves. Pranks can range from covering someone’s mouse sensor with a piece of tape to pretending to shoot someone to scare a passing pedestrian. Sometimes, however, even innocent pranks can go very wrong and could result in injury or sometimes even death.

Most funny pranks start out innocently; however, the act of carrying out the prank may result in legal trouble. Because of the nature of pranks, it may often be difficult to determine who will pay for the victim’s damages when injuries are involved.

Can someone be criminally liable for a prank?

Yes. Any prank that results in an assault, destruction of property, harassment, traffic violation, gross negligence, fraud, vandalism, even murder or manslaughter can result in criminal charges.

Some pranks that should be avoided

  • Spiking drinks. Perhaps to some people, spiking drinks is all fun and games. However, even something as harmless as food coloring can trigger an allergic reaction and a quick trip to the ER for the unfortunate victim. Also, clearly, spiking someone’s drink with an illegal substance, or even legal drugs can get the prankster in legal trouble as well.
  • Prank calls. In the state of California, even prank calls could lead to criminal charges. These can be considered harassment.
  • Wet-Willys. This gross and annoying prank may be considered an assault especially because it involves bodily fluids. It could also be considered a type of bullying, especially in a school setting.
  • Vandalism. Egging or TP-ing someone’s property may be considered vandalism and could land you in hot water. Or, in the case of Adrian Broadway from Little Rock, Arkansas, the consequences could be fatal. In 2014, Adrian, along with her group of friends, did a little retaliation prank on someone who pranked them by throwing toilet paper, eggs, and mayonnaise on a car parked at this person’s house. Unfortunately, as they were leaving, a man came out of the house and opened fire on the group of kids, killing Adrian and injuring another┬áteenager from her group.

Deaths caused by pranks

In August 2011, two teens in Ohio covered a stop sign with plastic wrap as a prank. That afternoon, two sisters, aged 80 and 85, went out for a drive. Not seeing the stop sign that was covered in plastic wrap, the driver drove straight through the intersection and got hit by an SUV. One sister died on the scene, the other at the hospital. The teens were charged with tampering with a traffic control device and involuntary manslaughter.

In 2013, a 16-year-old boy from Fern Creek, Kentucky, decided to play a Halloween prank on his sister. He set out a noose and pretended to hang himself to scare her. Unfortunately, the prank turned real and he accidentally hung himself. His younger sister found him and called for their mother. It was too late, however. Twelve hours after he accidentally hung himself, he died.

In Boca Raton Florida, a 16-year-old boy was playing “ding-dong-ditch” to amuse himself in 2016. As he walked away from the last house he played the doorbell-ringing prank on, he was shot to death by the homeowner. The owner claimed he thought the 16-year-old was an armed intruder. The homeowner pled guilty to manslaughter.

Pranks may be funny. However, sometimes they can turn into legal troubles that could cost not only legal damages but also someone’s life.

Contact us at Hogan Injury for expert legal advice.

None of the content on is legal advice nor is it a replacement for advice from a certified lawyer. Please consult a legal professional for further information.

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