Since their inception in 1999, emojis have become a regular part of our lives. We use them almost every day to express our emotions to our friends and family members. It’s become part of the norm to send text messages with just emojis and no text. However, misusing those innocent emoticons can surely get you in trouble. These 10 people learned it the hard way. Whether it was just for fun or intentional, these people used emojis to express their emotions and ended up getting in trouble for that. Some were even arrested and charged with crimes for misusing them. So, without further ado, here are 10 stories of people who got in trouble for misusing emojis.
1. A Frenchman sends a gun emoji to his ex and ends up getting six months of jail time and $1,133 (€1,000) in damages.
In 2015, 22-year-old Bilal Azougagh, a Frenchman, sent his ex a text message. He and his girlfriend had just split up and he did not take it lightly. Azougagh started sending her a series of messages, expressing his emotions and anger towards her decision of ending their relationship. At the end of the message, the angry man added a gun emoji. Azougagh thought that was the end of everything but sadly for him, it was the beginning of a nightmare.
His ex-girlfriend took it as a threat and started having nightmares. Fearing for her life, she told her parents, who informed authorities of the text message. The message fell under article 222-17 of the French penal code on death threats, and Azougagh was arrested. According to the law, Azougagh would have received a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a €45,000 fine. However, he gave him a reduced sentence of six months and $1,133 (€1,000) in damages. After a series of similar incidents all across the world, Apple decided to remove the gun emoji and replace it with a water gun emoji. (source)
2. A Florida teacher was fired and banned from teaching for 10 years after he sent an eggplant emoji as well as suggestive text messages to a 17-year-old student.
It’s not unusual for students to text their teachers for help regarding certain subjects. At the same time, it’s the teachers duty to keep the conversations appropriate. During his career at South Miami Senior High School, Armando Alejo was known as a laid-back guy who taught difficult concepts in simple ways. In 2016, when a 17-year-old student messaged him asking about his grades and ways to improve it, Armando took it too far. According to a disciplinary report by the Florida Department of Education, Armando sent the student suggestive messages as well as emojis including an eggplant and a peach.
He even went as far as texting, “I’ll give you the B you give me the D”. The student felt uncomfortable, decided to keep his scores as they were and reported Armando to school officials. A state board revoked Alejo’s teaching license for the next ten years and if he even tries to teach in any other jurisdiction, he will be placed on three years of employment-based probation. (source)
3. A New Zealand man was sentenced to eight months in prison for sending an airplane emoji and violating a restraining order.
Sloane Cruise Coake and his wife’s marriage fell apart in 2015. After the couple split up, his ex-wife moved on with her life but Coake couldn’t help but try to get back with her. His wife moved to Dunedin with their child but Coake refused to leave her. After a series of threatening messages, his ex-wife filed for a restraining order against him and Coake was advised to make no further contact. This however, did not stop him and Coake continued his rampage for almost a year. Finally in 2017, the 26-year-old sent a message saying “You’re going to get it”, followed by an airplane emoji. Coake even booked an airline ticket to Dunedin but his plans were foiled when authorities arrested him.
In court, the judge, who was unfamiliar with emojis, had to be explained as to what the little emoticons meant. The judge was quick to understand that the airplane emoji meant Coake was “coming to get her”. For breaching the restraining order and for the threatening messages, he was sentenced to eight months in prison. He was released after six months for good behavior but the judge put him on probation, as well as barred any form of contact to his wife or child without his probation officer’s prior approval. (source)
4. An Israeli couple was forced to pay a $2,200 fine for sending a series of emojis and unwittingly agreeing to rent an apartment.
In 2017, Rosen and Nir Haim Saharoff from Israel were looking to rent an apartment when they came across an ad posted by Yaniv Dahan. The landlord was looking to rent his apartment when he was contacted by the couple, who agreed that they would rent it if he brought the price down. After a series of texts, Dahan agreed, but when it was time for them to occupy the place, there was no sign of them. He messaged them but received no response. Dahan continued his attempt to get the couple to respond but as time went by, he understood that he was being stood up. The man was extremely upset over losing other potential renters and filed a complaint in small claims court.
There, Dahan provided the messages as evidence but the couple argued that they never agreed on renting the apartment. For the messages Dahan sent them, they responded with emojis: dancing lady, two people dancing, a chipmunk, a peace sign, a smiley face, and a champagne bottle. Although the couple argued that they did not like the condition of the apartment, the judge was not amused with their answers and forced them to pay $2,200 fine for wasting the landlord’s time as well as the court costs. (source)
5. A 17-year-old was arrested after updating his status that included a gun emoji pointed at a police officer emoji.
Updating your status is a fun way to let your friends and family members know what you’re up to. However, a 17-year-old decided to take it too far by posting a status update that included three gun emojis pointed at a police officer emoji. Osiris Aristy from Bushwick, Brooklyn is no stranger to the police, since he has had several previous run-ins with the cops and 12 arrests for several crimes. For a while, his social media pages were under surveillance. When Aristy made that particular status update, authorities immediately arrested him for making threats against police officers.
Aristy’s lawyer argued that the emojis were meant as a joke and no harm was intended. Authorities however, begged to differ and charged him with possession of weapons, contraband and making threats. (source)
6. A 39-year-old man from New South Wales, Australia, was arrested and held without bail after sending a series of texts, including a gun emoji, to his ex-girlfriend.
In 2018, Jayde Booth from Barrack Heights, New South Wales, Australia, was crushed after his girlfriend broke up with him. Booth started texting and calling from private numbers, and even followed her around. The woman became so scared that she obtained a restraining order against him. That did not stop Booth though, as he continued to call and harass her as well as leave garbage on her front porch. Things escalated when Booth sent her a series of texts and added a head emoji with a gun pointed at it.
The unidentified woman contacted police, who arrested Booth for breach of the restraining order. After his arrest, Booth argued: “It was just an emoji. You know I would never hurt you,. I never meant to make you scared, OK?”. “Well you have,” replied the woman. He was held without bail until his court date. (source)
7. A middle-schooler was charged with a felony after she posted “Watch out, I’m coming” — followed by three emojis: a gun, a knife and an explosive emoji on Instagram.
In 2015, a 12-year-old from Fairfax, Virginia was charged with threatening her school after the police said she made a post on Instagram. Authorities did not release the identity of the student due to her age but confirmed that she was a student of Sidney Lanier Middle School. The unnamed student made up a phony Instagram account and had a list of several middle-schoolers, as well as details of an attack that was to be carried out at a later date.
After she made the threat, a school resource officer spotted it and contacted police, who immediately traced the IP address to her home. A search warrant was issued and a cell phone, as well as login information, was seized. Investigators were able to determine that the threatening posts were indeed made by her and they charged her with a felony. (source)
8. Two men were arrested for sending the emoji for a fist, and a handing pointing towards an ambulance.
In 2015, Spartanburg County deputies in South Carolina arrested two men after they sent an emoji for a fist, and a handing pointing towards an ambulance. The two men had a dispute with an unnamed man for months and had been stalking him. According to authorities, at one point, 29-year-old David Fuentes and 29-year-old Matthew Cowan attempted to cause harm to the unidentified man. Police were already investigating them when David Fuentes and Matthew Cowan decided to send one last message to the man.
The message contained no text but three emojis. For authorities, it was the final straw, since the message meant that they intended to do him harm. Their choice of words, or lack thereof, was a fist and a hand pointing to a cartoon ambulance. This was enough for the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office to arrest Cowan and Fuentes on stalking charges. (source)
9. An Australian man was arrested for sending inappropriate emojis to a 12-year-old.
An unidentified 53-year-old Australian man has landed himself in the hot water after sending a series of x-rated emojis to a 12-year-old. The man utilized social media platforms, text messaging services and gaming platforms to find his victim. Once he found her, he started sending a series of text messages that contained vulgar emojis. When the 12-year-old received the messages, she informed her parents, who quickly called authorities. Police were able to track and arrest him. To their surprise, he was arrested on a similar charge 630 miles away, two weeks prior. For his role in misusing technology to lure innocent people, he was charged with three counts of indecent treatment. (source)
10. A woman adds a nail polish emoji to nickname on a banking app and causes the entire system to crash.
Although this incident did not involve any arrests or jail time, it sure did cause an entire banking system to crash. In 2016, Laurie Stark changed the nickname associated with her savings account to one that included an emoji. She wanted to make sure that no one would be able to steal her information or savings, so she added a nail polish emoji to her nickname. However, the attempt at securing her online banking account backfired when her bank called her and informed her that she had caused their systems to crash. “They just called to let me know that they had to change my account name because it broke,” Stark said on Twitter. (source)