“Just A Prank” Leads To Lost Custody

“It’s just a prank, bro.” That’s how Michael Martin, AKA DaddyOFive, dismisses his actions in a now-since-deleted video from YouTube. In the video, Martin and his wife berate their young children for spilling ink on the carpet, screaming and yelling expletives until the children are in tears. Once the children are thoroughly hysterical, the parents reveal that it was invisible ink all along. But now that his “just a prank” actions have drawn national attention and caused him to lose custody of two of his children, we doubt Martin is laughing now.

The other videos, also deleted, show similarly disturbing behavior. In one, one child slaps his 11-year-old sister until she cries. A 9-year-old son gets pushed into a bookshelf in another video. The children are consistently yelled at, pushed, encouraged to hurt each other, or subjected to emotional stress as their parents and siblings mock them or destroy their belongings. Many of the “pranks” focus on the 9-year-old son.

Are Pranks Illegal?

Once other YouTube users began to complain about the videos, law enforcement got involved. The biological mother of two of the children, the 9-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl, regained custody. Martin and his wife were forced to apologize for their actions. He says they are seeking family counseling. In his apology video, Martin claims that it all started out as innocent fun.

It’s undeniable that Martin’s pranks were physically and emotionally harmful. Even without intent to harm, his actions were still irresponsible and negligent, and Martin’s children deserve better. But one question still looms: were his pranks actually illegal? Along with the loss of his children, will he face criminal charges?

The Importance Of Intent

A person is guilty of a criminal act if:

  • They committed the criminal act
  • They possessed the intent required to commit the crime at the time of committing the crime

In this situation, intent refers to the state of mind at the time of the crime. For example, a man steals his coworker’s car keys and hides them in a desk drawer, because he thinks it will be funny. His intent is to play a joke. He intends to give them back to her when she asks where they went. Therefore, his intent is not to commit a criminal act. If he took her keys with the intent to steal her car and rob a bank, then his intent would be criminal.

Pranks Gone Wrong

Even if the event of a prank gone horribly wrong, intent still plays a role. If the man takes his coworkers keys and gets into her car, hits the accelerator like he is going to speed away, and then accidentally hits a pedestrian in the process, his intent was still to play a joke. His intent was not to hurt the pedestrian. His intent was not to cause bodily harm to the pedestrian. So, his accident is likely not considered criminal, though he will still face punishment.

While Martin’s “prank” videos showcase assault and harassment, other potentially criminal pranking activities include:

  • Destruction of property
  • Reckless endangerment
  • Disorderly conduct
  • False imprisonment
  • Criminal conspiracy
  • Stalking
  • Traffic violations

In the case of Martin and his children, it’s possible that he will face charges of child abuse, negligence, or some other crime. However, intent is sometimes difficult to prove. For now, it’s likely for the best that his youngest children have been removed from the home. The next time he thinks about physically and emotionally harming a child in the name of “fun,” hopefully he thinks again.

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The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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