1

This is only a weird hypothetical scenario and is not something I actually plan on doing.

Suppose there's someone in my town that I really don't like, for whatever reason. I might not even know them, they might not even know me. I know exactly where they live but I don't want to actually hurt them, just annoy them.

So let's say I put up a bunch of fliers (on telephone poles, bulletin boards, etc.) advertising a yard sale at this person's house a week from now. Of course they're not really going to be holding one, but that's immaterial. Assuming the following, what would I be charged with once the police find out?

  • This person is out of town and won't be home until the day after the "yard sale", so they won't physically notice the fake yard sale posters until it's too late.
  • This person was not planning on holding a yard sale that day.
  • This person lives alone, or the people they live with are also out of town (e.g. a family vacation).
  • It is possible that someone told this person via social media about my little plot while they're away, but not in a way that interferes with these other assumptions (e.g. calling the police before the day of the "sale").
  • I don't actually set foot on, steal, vandalize, or otherwise disturb this person's property.
  • At least one would-be customer actually does show up, but I don't know how long they were there for or what they did there. They might have even done something illegal like steal their porch furniture, but I just don't know for sure.
  • I don't take down the fliers after the day of the "sale".
  • The fliers themselves are simple and contain no inflammatory content, but they do explicitly advertise a yard sale at a particular place and time.
  • You'd probably need to specify the state. You might also want to specify a city and look up that city's laws on posting of bills, etc. – mark b Mar 6 '17 at 18:17
  • Just wondering -- what would be the point? If they were out of town until the day after the deed, they might not even notice. Of course, if potential "customers" showed up and started stealing things, breaking in, or defacing the property, that would be a different kettle of fish. Much more annoying would be having the "sale" the day after they come back (when most people would have already seen the signs and entered the date on their calendars, and it would be too late to go around and remove them), so they would be annoyed by people knocking all day. Hypothetically speaking, of course. – Jennifer May 25 '18 at 7:30
2

The potential criminal charges might easily include:

(1) some form of harassment or stalking (statutory definitions vary a great deal),

(2) littering,

(3) violation of a municipal signage ordinance,

(4) vandalism (of the structures upon which the signs were affixed),

(5) deceptive trade practices/consumer protection law violation (which ban false statements made to prospective consumers without regard to harm), and

(6) conspiracy of whatever crimes are committed by someone who does show up (e.g. trespass, larceny, vandalism). The lack of knowledge regarding exactly whom would commit exactly which charge probably wouldn't bar a conspiracy conviction although this would vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based upon statutory language and case law.

Mail and wire fraud would not seem to apply since only old school fliers were used by the perpetrator.

If there were factual indications of certain kinds of motivations or expected consequences of the prank, state hate crime violations might also be implicated. Motives could also implicate certain statutes barring retaliation (e.g. for labor union organization or petitioning a public body).

The exact specifics of the charges would depend upon the exact state, county, city, etc. in which the property was located as these kinds of laws vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction compared with offenses which were crimes at common law.

  • Suppose this was Denver, and the signs, placed on utility poles, are removed within a month. – user6726 Mar 6 '17 at 19:48
  • I could answer that one more specifically. Maybe I'll try tomorrow once I'm past a couple of court deadlines. – ohwilleke Mar 7 '17 at 0:59
  • Things to do in Denver when you're deadlined? :) – BlueDogRanch Mar 7 '17 at 4:55

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.