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Pranksters May Face Criminal Charges for Threatening to Spread Coronavirus

May 07, 2020

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

Over the past few weeks, the warnings of coronavirus have been near constant, and the media has been flooded with ways to protect yourself. People should remain six feet apart at all times, stay home whenever possible, and cough and sneeze into their elbow. It is this last recommendation that pranksters all around the country, and right here in Pennsylvania, have been playing on, as they walk into stores and cough on customers, workers, and even food. That was what happened in a grocery store in Hanover and now, a woman is facing charges for it.

The Hanover Story

It was in late March when an unknown woman entered the a Supermarket in Hanover Township, Pennsylvania. As she walked around the store, she coughed on several grocery items, including bakery items, produce, and meat. The grocery store staff made her leave the store soon after she entered, but they had to throw out approximately $35,000 in food that may have been contaminated by the coronavirus. They also had to spend time spraying every surface the woman coughed on with disinfectant.

Hanover Township Police found the woman a few hours after she left the store. Although she is now facing criminal charges, law enforcement officials did not say what those charges are. The police are also going to test the woman for coronavirus, although they do not believe she is infected. The woman is also undergoing mental health treatment.

Penalties for Pranks

The woman in Hanover is not the only one that has been engaging in pranks associated with coronavirus. A man in New Jersey coughed on a grocery store worker, saying that he had coronavirus. In Missouri, a man licked deodorant and asked who was afraid of the coronavirus before posting a video of the act onto social media. While all of these individuals thought their actions were done in jest, the law takes these actions very seriously.

The most common charge for these types of threats are those pertaining to terrorist acts. Under Pennsylvania’s criminal statute, the penalties for terrorism is up to 40 years in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000. Individuals may also face civil penalties, even if they are not convicted of a criminal charge. For example, the grocery store in Hanover could file a civil lawsuit against the woman that coughed on their food and hold her liable for paying compensation for the food the store was forced to throw out.

Facing Charges for a Prank? Call Our Pennsylvania Criminal Defense Lawyers

The stories coming out of Pennsylvania and throughout the rest of the country are a great reminder of just how serious pranks can become. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers know that individuals do not always mean harm and we do not believe one mistake should ruin your life. If you are facing criminal charges, call us today at (215) 486-0123 or contact us online to arrange a free consultation with one of our attorneys.


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