Bills upgrade penalties for harassing phone calls – The Famuan

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Description: Florida State Capitol

Lawmakers in Florida are considering a bill that would revise prohibitions on telephone calls made for certain purposes and increase the classification of certain offenses involving telephone calls.

According to the Florida Senate website, it states that House Bill 67 — known as “Obscene or Harassing Telephone Calls” — ensures that anyone who makes a phone call or any act relating to obscene or harassing phone calls is committing a felony. That includes “any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, vulgar, or indecent; and by such call or such language intends to offend, annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number.”

Leon County resident Michele Harrison says this is the first step in the right direction.

“Being a victim of harassing phone calls can be challenging, especially if you’re getting them nonstop,” Harrison said. “When dealing with harassing phone calls, there are things to watch out for, like if they’re being forceful that should let you know that something is not right and that you should take action immediately.”

In addition, the bill states that even if there’s nothing being said during the phone call and if the caller is behaving in a silly way with no ill intent behind their actions, it may still fall under HB 67 — which could result in a third- degree felony charge.

Wendy Wortham, a victim of obscene or harassing phone calls, says that she has received numerous non-stop phone calls, including leaving disturbing messages and voicemails.

“I can’t even keep count on how many times I’ve had to change my phone number,” Wortham said. “I receive calls in the middle of the night, early in the mornings at times, and every time they call it’s them making noises and leaving very strange text messages. Every time I block them, they call from a different number but it’s the same person every time. I feel I shouldn’t have to keep changing my number, they should just stop.”

The companion bill to HB 67 is SB 174, which was introduced by Senator Tina Scott Polsky (D). SB 174 has been filed and referred to the chamber’s Criminal Justice Committee.

HB67 has recently been filed and has been referred to the criminal justice subcommittee, the justice appropriations subcommittee, and the judiciary committee and is now in the criminal justice subcommittee.

Patricia Wetherspoon, another victim of harassing phone calls, says that she has had to shut her phone off for half the day to avoid her cell phone from constantly ringing.

“I have received harassing phone calls almost every single day, and it’s very draining,” says Wetherspoon. “During the call they ask for money, but most of them just call being ignorant. It’s like they won’t take no for an answer.

If HB67 passes, it would immediately take effect on Oct 1, 2023.

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