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No laughing matter: Seven illegal pranks no teen should try

As June winds to a close, the start of a new school year is just around the corner. Eager to get the most out of their summer, many teens will make a push to check off those last few items on their summer bucket list. For some teens, this might mean doing something big or maybe a little risky.

If playing a prank sounds like the perfect idea, think again. While many teens might think pranks are harmless -- and in some cases they are - other pranks can cross the line into illegal activity. As you'll see in the list below, some pranks can lead to a teen's arrest, criminal charges and the potential for jail time and fines if a teen is convicted.

  1. Egging or toilet papering a house. While this might seem funny, egging or toilet papering a house can constitute vandalism in Virginia. In fact, vandalism is a misdemeanor offense that can escalate to a felony if damage to property exceeds $1,000 (VA Code § 18.2-137). A conviction could mean time in jail and the court may order the defendant to pay restitution as well.
  2. Sneaking into someone's home, a business or public building. It might seem like a fun idea to sneak into the school just before school starts to leave a "welcome back surprise," but this can be considered trespassing. Under § 18.2-119 of the Virginia Code, trespassing is a Class 1 misdemeanor which, despite what some might think, is a crime that should be taken seriously.
  3. Taking property without permission. Many pranks involve taking objects and property without permission. From bikes to pink yard flamingos, theft is a crime that can lead to criminal charges and fines for teens and their parents.
  4. Causing public inconvenience or creating a risky situation. Moving traffic cones to block a street may seem funny but it can actually lead to disorderly conduct charges, which are often classified as Class 1 misdemeanors.
  5. Making fake calls to the police. In many states, police are required to respond to calls, even if they are part of a prank. Falsely summoning police to a location or giving a false report is a misdemeanor crime in Virginia (VA Code § 18.2-461).
  6. Releasing an animal into a public building. This is a common prank that can constitute animal cruelty depending on the court's interpretation of VA Code § 3.2-6570. If charged, a teen could face misdemeanor charges, but this charge could escalate depending on the circumstances involved.
  7. Playing a prank that results in injury. Whether the resulting injury was intentional or not, a prank that causes someone to suffer injuries can constitute assault and battery. Depending on the victim and why they were chosen as the subject for the prank, charges can range from a Class 1 misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony.

As teens check off their summer bucket lists, it's important to understand that some activities, such as pranks, can have legal consequences. In the end, the choice to play a prank could leave you in search of a good juvenile defense attorney instead of enjoying the rest of your summer break.

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