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April Fool's hostage prank will require criminal defense

Virtually every New Jersey resident has been on one side or the other of an April Fool's prank. In fact, many families and groups of friends make it a priority to devise schemes that will top their previous efforts. At times, such pranks can cross the line from clever to tasteless, and some go even further into the realm of creating a dangerous scenario for those who are affected by the scheme. Such is the case for a fake hostage situation called in to emergency responders just days before the first of April. When police locate those behind the incident, a criminal defense strategy will likely be called for.

The call came in to police on a Saturday night, stating that a hostage situation was underway at a video store in Clifton, New Jersey. The caller also stated that multiple individuals had suffered gunshot wounds at that location. As a result, law enforcement officers swarmed the area, hoping to secure the scene and prevent any loss of life. When they arrived, however, they discovered that there were no hostages or wounded individuals at the scene. The store was open at the time, and a group of around a dozen were there for a video game club meeting.

Among those who responded to the call were officers from the New Jersey State Police, the Clifton Police Department and the Passaic County Sheriff's Department. SWAT teams from two of those offices were also present. Multiple officers who were off-duty at the time were called in as well.

Police are now working to determine the source of the prank, and have stated that criminal charges will follow any arrests. Calling in a false emergency is a violation of a state statute against the creation of false public alarms. Should those who made the call be located, they will need to present the reasoning behind the decision to create a fake hostage scare. While each case is unique, the criminal defense strategy in such matters is often based on the youthfulness and lack of maturity of those behind such a prank. For many in New Jersey, the incident is an example of the tasteless and potentially dangerous scenarios that can occur near April Fool's Day.

Source: northjersey.com, "Police: Person behind hoax hostage situation in Clifton to face criminal charges", Linda Moss, March 29, 2015

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