Many YouTubers are based in California, and with pranks being one of the most popular genres of videos on the site, hundreds of thousands of YouTube pranks have been filmed in California. Many of these videos are filmed, laughs are had, and the video is posted without problems. However, in some cases, police may be called while the video is being filmed, or the video might later be reported to the police because it shows evidence of a crime. The Ventura criminal defense lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth explain when shooting a prank video for YouTube may be a crime in CA. If you need legal advice or help with your criminal charges, call our law offices today to schedule a free legal consultation.

When is Filming a Prank Illegal in CA?

When filming a prank, there are 4 possible ways that it could be a crime. There are many ways that your video could come under fire for “illegal” things like copyright infringement or libel and slander, but filming a video is typically only a crime if one of the following occurs:

  • It is illegal to be where you are when you’re filming (i.e., you are trespassing).
  • You are filming illegal acts.
  • The process of filming bothers others or creates a disturbance.
  • Displaying the video is illegal where it is being watched.

Note that these are not the only ways that filming a video could be illegal. If you have a unique or strange circumstance that you want to film, talk to an attorney about it before risking filming the video. In addition, these 4 issues demonstrate how filming the video can be a crime in California, but other states might have different laws. Moreover, a video might not be a crime, but it could still violate other rules, such as YouTube’s community guidelines.

Trespassing While Filming

If you are trespassing on private property when you film the video, you could have the police called on you, and you may be arrested. The property owner at many private locations, such as someone else’s house or workplace, might tell you to leave if you are caught filming on the premises. Many stores also have rules against recording on the property, and you should follow those rules or else you may be asked to leave.

If you enter the property illegally or remain on the property after someone asks you to leave, you may violate California’s trespassing laws.

Filming Illegal Acts

Many pranks are controversial. Some “pranks” depict harmless behavior, but many YouTubers and content creators attempt to pass off violence, destruction of property, or other illegal acts as “just a prank.” Unfortunately, judges and police officers will not care if it is “just a prank,” and they will issue charges against you no matter how many subscribers you have or how many views the video gets. If you intentionally assault someone, create a public disturbance, steal, destroy property, issue threats, or sexually assault someone as part of the video, you could likely be arrested. Especially in cases involving “swatting” or false police reports, law enforcement may take the offense very seriously.

One other issue is California’s two-party consent law. It is illegal to record a conversation without the other person’s consent, meaning that recording a phone call or private conversation may be illegal. Talk to an attorney for guidance.

There are a few exceptions to these rules which may allow you to perform the prank anyway, even if it involves harm or destruction of property. In many cases, the fact that the victim consented to the harm makes the act legal. Getting the “victim” of your prank to sign a waiver or consent to being hit or having their property destroyed might make the prank okay.

Even if criminal charges are not filed, the victim may still be able to sue you in civil court for striking them or destroying their property without their permission.

Causing a Disturbance

Many pranks are loud or try to cause a scene. In some cases, this act itself may be illegal, even if it is not filmed. Disturbances such as causing excessive noise, blocking traffic, or creating a false sense of danger can all be charged as crimes.

Before filming a prank that is going to cause a disturbance, be sure to get any permits necessary to perform the acts you want to perform. In addition, talk to local police and warn them you will be filming to avoid any unnecessary police reports or false alarms.

Distributing an Illegal Video

YouTube reaches many states and other countries. If your video contains content that is illegal in any of those places, you may face criminal charges in that location. For instance, videos containing lewd material or threats of violence may be legal under the definitions of certain crimes in one state, but illegal in others. Talk to a lawyer for guidance on how to distribute your videos legally.

Call Our Ventura Criminal Defense Lawyers for Help with Criminal Charges from a YouTube Prank Video

If you or a friend was arrested for filming a YouTube prank or another online video, contact our law offices today. Don’t let these laws deter you from making content, just make sure to talk to a lawyer and get the right legal advice for your case. To schedule a free legal consultation, contact the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today at (805) 643-5555.