Under Washington law, you commit the crime of harassment if you threaten someone else and the other person is placed in reasonable fear because of the threat. Harassment is a serious criminal offense that can result in a jail or state prison sentence. Please contact a criminal defense attorney now if you or a loved one is facing a harassment charge.
What is the Crime of Harassment?
RCW 9A.46.020 is the Washington statute on the crime of harassment. Per this law, you are guilty of an offense if:
- You knowingly “threaten” another person, and
- The threat places the other person in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out.
For purposes of this crime, a “reasonable fear” means that the threat would cause a reasonable person, under the same circumstances, to fear that the threat will be carried out.
Under RCW 9A.46.020, a threat can lead to a harassment charge if you knowingly threaten to:
- Cause bodily injury or substantial harm to the person threatened or any other person (for example, someone’s family member),
- Cause physical damage to the property of someone else, and/or
- Subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint.
What are the Penalties?
A prosecutor will typically charge a harassment offense as a gross misdemeanor. The maximum penalties for a gross misdemeanor are:
- Custody in county jail for up to one year, and/or
- A fine of $5,000.
Note, though, that harassment can lead to a Class C felony charge if the offender:
- Was previously convicted of harassing the same “victim” or a member of the “victim’s” family,
- Harassed a victim by threatening to kill him/her, or
- Harassed a “criminal justice participant” (for example, a law enforcement agent, prosecutor, or defense attorney).
A Class C felony is punishable by:
- Custody in state prison for up to five years, and/or
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. People charged with harassment can challenge the charge with a legal defense. Some common defenses include a defense attorney showing that:
- You threatened someone accidentally (or not on purpose),
- Your threat could not have led a reasonable person to fear for his/her safety, and
- You did not “threaten” someone.
Your lawyer can also show that the police committed some type of constitutional error. Maybe for example, an officer:
- Arrested you without probable cause, or
- Failed to read you your Miranda rights.
In these cases, a judge might have the authority to reduce or even drop your criminal charge.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a harassment charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on harassment and violent crime charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!