What is Harassment?
According to RCW §9A.46.020, a person is guilty of harassment if:
- Without lawful authority, he knowingly threatens:
- To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or another person; or
- To cause physical damage to the property of a person; or
- To subject the person threatened or another person to physical confinement or restraint; or
- Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his physical or mental health or safety; AND
- The person by words or conduct places the person threatened in reasonable fear that the threat will be carried out. "Words or conduct" includes, in addition to any other form of communication or conduct, the sending of an electronic communication.
Penalties for Harassment in Washington:
Harassment is usually considered a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.
However, harassment can be considered a class C felony when certain aggravating factors are present, in which case, pursuant to RCW §9A.20.021, it is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. Such aggravating factors include a previous conviction of harassment, a threat to kill the person threatened or another person, or harassment of a criminal justice participant.
Defending a Harassment Charge:
There are multiple ways to defend a charge of harassment. One of the main ways is to challenge one of the elements required for the offense. For example, you might argue that you did not threaten knowingly or maliciously. You might also argue that the alleged victim's fear was not reasonable. Your defense strategy is crucial, and the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney is strongly advised.