The California Senate cracked down Thursday on a hoax trend that has targeted Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest and even a state legislator, approving legislation that would hike penalties for making false 911 calls.
Democratic Sen. Ted Lieu introduced Senate Bill 333 in response to a rash of "swatting" prank calls that sent police to the homes of Hollywood stars. The Torrance Democrat experienced the hoax first hand last month, when police responded to a false 911 call reporting that he had shot his wife at their home.
The bill, sponsored by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department, would make the caller behind a false 911 report liable for the cost of the emergency response. While "swatting" is already a crime punishable by up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine -- with longer and higher penalties for calls that knowingly send emergency responders into harm's way -- supporters say the extra liability is needed because of the staff and financial burden the practice has put on local police.
"To add a further unnecessary and nonsensical strain on limited public safety resources has really created a public safety hazard," Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, said during a floor debate on the proposal.
The bill passed the Senate on Thursday with bipartisan support, 33-0. It now heads to the Assembly for consideration.
PHOTO CREDIT: Justin Bieber, shown here in this 2012 file photo, is one of several high-profile celebrities to be targeted by "swatting" hoax 911 calls. Evan Agostini/Associated Press.