Making Fake 9-1-1 Calls: A Lose-Lose Situation

Abusing the 9-1-1 system not only frustrates law enforcement and emergency personnel, it's a crime.

At first, the 33 year-old Waukesha woman thought she was being very clever. Now, she finds herself facing up to 180 days in jail and a $600 fine for placing a series of false emergency phone calls to police dispatchers.

The woman, Aisha R. Jackson, was charged with seven counts of placing a false emergency call. On each occasion, Jackson had been pulled over for traffic violations and would then dial 9-1-1 to report a major crime in progress. The officers would leave the traffic stop scene only to arrive at bogus crime scenes where there was nobody around.

This kind of story is, to me, just unbelievable. Whatever happened to the days of taking personal responsibility for one’s actions and just taking your lumps when you’ve done something wrong? Am I asking an “old school” question here, harkening back to a “simpler time” in our history? Of course.  Still, you’d like to believe that this type of moral outlook on personal responsibility still exists to a strong degree.

The issue here is that the 9-1-1 system has one main purpose: to assist people in the community in their time of need. It could be for fire, rescue, EMS, and, of course, law enforcement and protection from the dangers of criminal activity. Calls that abuse the

9-1-1 system siphon precious time from those who are sworn to protect the public. The abusers have very selfish and often nonsensical or illegal reasons for diverting these precious emergency services.

Every minute or second that law enforcement or other emergency personnel have to waste in responding to these types of calls amounts to time and money that could have been used to help other people who are truly in need.

If you’ve ever contemplated making a fake 9-1-1 call, just keep in mind that, if you were sitting in a ditch, bleeding after a car crash, how sickening it would be to find out that the precious few law enforcement personnel in the area couldn’t respond to your needs immediately because they were responding to a robbery call that turned out to be a hoax by a woman trying to avoid a speeding ticket. People need to realize the ramifications of this, not only from a criminal perspective but also understanding that abusing 9-1-1 can put other lives in danger.

Besides the danger of interfering with the process of assisting with real emergencies and all of the wasted time and energy caused by frivolous 911 calls, there is the tremendous feeling of frustration that the emergency responders are subjected to.  Dispatchers are very well-trained to remain calm in circumstances that the average person would most likely lose control.  These people are trained when someone is screaming into the phone about a loved one who’s not breathing or has a different medical emergency to calmly assist people to react in a way that will benefit the caller that’s in the middle of that emergency.

The Jackson case is certainly a prime example of someone brazenly exploiting 9-1-1 to skirt personal responsibility, in this instance, getting a speeding ticket. But you can also imagine the frustration of these highly trained emergency personnel being bothered with frivolous calls like a pizza not being delivered on time or a complaint that someone was “unfriended” on Facebook. You just can’t make up this kind of idiocy! Nonsensical 9-1-1 calls are often made by people who are intoxicated.  Unfortunately, when two people are involved in a drunken argument and one of them calls 9-1-1, it’s very difficult for the dispatcher to know immediately whether there is a legitimate emergency and the emergency response must be made.

The 9-1-1 system is an invaluable service and it is clearly there in case of an emergency.  Accidents. Threats of danger or violence. Fights. When you dial 9-1-1, make sure you are clear that there is an actual emergency you wish to report. Dispatchers are very clear about this when they answer the call. They will ask if this is an emergency and if anybody is hurt.  Be very clear in your response. This doesn’t mean you should not call 911 in the case of a minor accident. When in doubt, always contact law enforcement.

In short, don’t be afraid to dial 9-1-1 with a legitimate emergency to report. Anytime there is a concern for safety or someone is hurt or injured, make the call. But don’t ever think that by calling 9-1-1 in order to get yourself out of trouble that it will somehow be a wise choice. Misuse of 9-1-1 will only result in criminal charges and the very real possibility that you are responsible for putting somebody else’s life in danger.

About Attorney Mark Powers
Attorney Mark Powers is a partner at the criminal defense law firm of Huppertz & Powers, S.C. in Waukesha. Previously, Powers served as an Assistant District Attorney with the Waukesha County District Attorney's office and is currently serving as a municipal judge in North Prairie. He focuses in the area of criminal defense, and has handled many cases involving operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, domestic disputes, and drug offenses.

Powers attended Valparaiso University School of Law, where he received his Juris Doctorate. Prior to law school, Mark attended the University of Wisconsin, Lacrosse where he received his bachelor of science in Political Science.

For more information, please call 262.549.5979 or visit  www.waukeshacriminalattorneys.com.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Cookies January 18, 2013 at 10:46 PM
You could call both and give them a heads up and let them know that you are intending to test your phone. Waukesha County Dispatch Center receives most 911 calls for the county. You may live in an area that has their own dispatch center, but if you are confident that your call is going to come to Waukesha County Dispatch, just call their non-emergency number 262-446-5070 to check to see if it's ok to call.
Cookies January 18, 2013 at 10:47 PM
Let me correct myself. Waukesha County Dispatch Center receives a majority of the 911 cell phone calls and will end up transferring them to the correct agency.
CowDung January 18, 2013 at 11:07 PM
I don't live in Waukesha county...
Cookies January 18, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Sorry, I had assumed you lived in Waukesha County since this is the Waukesha Patch. Do you know where your 911 calls are being routed to? With VOIP calls, I know it can get complicated, especially if you moved from out of state. I would still check with your local police department first and give them a heads up that you want to test 911 on your phone. If you think you know where the calls are routing to, I would suggest trying to obtain a non-emergency number to call them at and give them a heads up. People will fail to call ahead and the problem with that is how is the dispatch center to know that even if the person says they are just "testing", they aren't truly in distress?
Jay Sykes January 19, 2013 at 12:36 AM
@CD how did you arrange for and do 911 testing? As, all 911 calls in the North Shore go to Bayside for dispatch. I ported a couple land lines to VOIP at home, but I still maintain one traditional land line for my security system, FAX,and 911; until I get it all figured out.


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