It is a criminal offense under Washington law for you to harass another person over the telephone. The crime is a gross misdemeanor that can result in a year-long jail term and several thousands of dollars in fines. If you or a loved one is facing a harassment charge, please contact a criminal defense attorney now for help.

What is Washington’s Law on Telephone Harassment?

RCW 9.61.230 is the Washington statute that sets forth the state’s laws on telephone harassment. Per this code section, you commit a crime if you do any of the following when making a telephone call with the intent to harass, intimidate, torment or embarrass:

  • Call anonymously or repeatedly,
  • Speak in an obscene or indecent way,
  • Use offensive sexual language or suggest the commission of any lewd or lascivious act,
  • Threaten to harm an individual, his/her property, or his/her family member, or
  • Call at an extremely inconvenient hour.

Keep in mind that you are only guilty of a crime if you do any of the above bulleted acts with the specific intent to either:

  • Harass,
  • Intimidate,
  • Torment, or
  • Embarass

What Are the Penalties?

Telephone harassment is a gross misdemeanor under Washington law. The crime is punishable by:

  • Custody in jail for up to one year, and/or
  • A maximum fine of $5,000.

Note that a prosecutor can charge this offense as a class C felony if you:

  • Were previously convicted of harassing the same “victim,” or
  • Harassed a person with a threat to kill.

A class C felony is punishable by:

  • Custody in prison for up to five years, and/or
  • A maximum fine of up to $10,000.

Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?

Yes. People charged with telephone harassment can contest the charge with a legal defense. A common defense is for an accused to show that he/she did not make a telephone call with an intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass. For example, maybe you made an offensive or rude phone call as a practical joke. Here, there is no crime because you did not make the call with some type of intent to harass.

You can also contest a charge by showing that the police somehow violated your constitutional rights. For example, you can try and show that the police:

  • Arrested you without probable cause,
  • Coerced a confession, or
  • Failed to read you your Miranda rights.

If any of the above, then you can try to have a judge reduce a criminal charge to a lesser crime or dismiss the chare in its entirety.

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 criminal defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on harassment charges. 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!