February 6, 2006
INFORMATION ON 9-1-1 LAWS
By: Veronica Rose, Principal Analyst
You asked for a summary of the laws on 9-1-1 misuse in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island.
This report looks at the laws in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. All of these states have laws that address the misuse of the 9-1-1 system, but the scope of the laws and penalties for violations vary. Typically, the laws criminalize one or more of the following: calling 9-1-1 to make non emergency requests or false reports, using an alarm or other alerting device to automatically dial 9-1-1 to transmit prerecorded messages, or preventing someone from completing a 9-1-1 call. Typically, violators are guilty of a misdemeanor. New Hampshire's law is the broadest, covering requests for non emergency assistance, false reports, and false reports about biological or chemical substances. The last is a felony. In addition to prison time and a fine, juvenile violators in New Jersey lose their driving privileges for up to six months.
Under state law, it is a class A misdemeanor to verbally or physically prevent or hinder another person from making or completing a (1) 9-1-1 call or (2) phone call or radio communication to a law enforcement agency to request police protection or report a crime. The actor must intend to prevent the call's completion (CGS § 53a-183b). A class A misdemeanor is punishable by a fine of up $2,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
Under Maine law, a person is guilty of misusing the E-9-1-1 system if, without reasonable cause and after being warned by a public safety answering point manager or administrator or law enforcement officer, he:
1. calls 9-1-1 repeatedly to make non emergency reports or inquiries or
2. makes 9-1-1 calls by using an alarm or other device that automatically dials 9-1-1 to transmit prerecorded signals or messages.
A single violation of the automatic dialing provision carries a maximum $500 civil penalty. Any subsequent violation is a class E crime. Similarly, using the system for non emergency reports is a class E crime. The penalty for a class E crime is a $1,000 fine, imprisonment for up to six months, or both (Me. Rev. Stat. Ann. T. 25 § 2931, T. 17-A § 1252, and T 17-A § 1301).
It is a class A misdemeanor under New Hampshire law to call 9-1-1 to make a false alarm or complaint or purposely report false information that could result in the dispatch of emergency services (N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 106-H:13 and § 625:9(a)). A class A misdemeanor carries a prison term of up to one year, a fine of up to $2,000, or both.
It is a class B felony to call 9-1-1 to purposely report false information about the existence of a biological or chemical substance that could result in the dispatch of emergency service (N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 106-H:13). A class B felony carries a prison term of up to seven years, a fine of up to $4,000, or both.
It is a violation to call 9-1-1 for any other reason than to request emergency assistance from fire, police, or other safety-related agencies. The third and subsequent such call in any calendar year is a violation (N. H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 106-H:15). A conviction carries a maximum $1,000 penalty.
Under New Jersey law, a person who knowingly calls 9-1-1 for any other service besides 9-1-1 service is guilty of a fourth-degree crime. A violation carries a civil penalty of up to $2,000 or actual costs the law enforcement or emergency entity incurs in responding, whichever is higher. In addition, the court must suspend the motor vehicle operating privileges of any adjudicated juvenile delinquent for six months. This suspension is in addition to any other sentence the court imposes. For juveniles under age 17, the suspension begins on the date of the disposition and runs for a period of six months after the day the person reaches age 17. For those under age 21, the period of suspension begins on the day the sentence is imposed and runs for six months (N. J. Stat. Ann. § 2C:33-3).
It is illegal to call or otherwise allow placement of a 9-1-1 call to knowingly make a false alarm, complaint, or report that could result in the dispatch of emergency services from any public agency. A violation is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment for up to one year, or both (R.I. Gen. Laws § 39-21.1-17).