Telephone Harassment and Protection Orders

Seattle Lawyers Assisting People in the Family and Criminal Justice Systems

Telephone harassment is a crime in Washington. It often occurs between people who have dated or have been married, and under those circumstances, it is considered domestic violence. At Blair & Kim, our Seattle civil protection order attorneys understand all of the facets of protection orders, including the potential family law and criminal repercussions for both the alleged victim and the alleged harasser.

The Crime of Telephone Harassment

Under CW 9.61.230, a prosecutor hoping to prove criminal telephone harassment by a defendant must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant made a telephone call to another person with the intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass that person. They also need to show that the defendant either used lewd language, suggested committing a lewd or lascivious act, anonymously and repeatedly called at an extremely inconvenient hour, or threatened to cause an injury to the person called, a member of their family, or their property.

The state Supreme Court has ruled that phone harassment in Washington can only be perpetrated by the person placing the call, rather than by the recipient of the phone call. The intent to harass must be tied to the act of dialing the phone number. For example, if a couple separates, and the husband is angry about it and calls and hangs up at 2:00 a.m., 3:00 a.m., and 4:00 a.m. on a daily basis for two weeks, this could be telephone harassment. For another example, if he calls and threatens to kill the wife for leaving him, this would likely be telephone harassment.

Under state law, telephone harassment is usually prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor. The harasser may face a maximum of 365 days in jail, plus a $5,000 fine. If the harasser has prior convictions for harassment crimes against a particular victim or their family, or a threat to kill was made, the charge may be a Class C felony, in which case the minimum sentence is 1-3 years in jail and up to five years. There may be additional sanctions imposed if the crime is designated as domestic violence, due to the relationship between the victim and the harasser.

Protection Orders Based on Telephone Harassment

A victim of telephone harassment may be able to obtain a protective order against the harassment. An anti-harassment order is a specific type of restraining order in which the court tells the person alleged to be harassing the victim not to bother or call them again.

A person can get an anti-harassment protective order if they are subject to a knowing and willful course of conduct that harasses, annoys, or alarms them, the conduct does not serve a legitimate and lawful purpose, the conduct would cause a reasonable person to experience substantial emotional distress, and the conduct actually does cause the person substantial emotional distress. The telephone harassment must be made up of a series of harassing phone calls over a period of time that have an ongoing purpose.

The court will consider such factors as whether the communication is one-sided or two-sided, whether the respondent has been clearly told by the victim that they do not want further contact, whether the behavior is alarming or harassing the victim, whether the telephone calls are interfering with the victim's privacy or making the living environment hostile, and whether the respondent has already been subject to a court order.

The police will be notified about the anti-harassment order. In addition to stopping the harasser from contacting the victim, the order can also require the harasser to keep a certain distance from the victim's home or workplace, and it can stop the harasser from keeping the victim under surveillance. In most cases, the order lasts for a maximum of a year.

If a victim believes that they are in immediate danger, they may be able to get a temporary order before a full hearing. The harasser will not receive notice. The victim will see the judge or court commissioner on the same day that they file the paperwork. They must show reasonable proof of unlawful telephone harassment and prove that great harm will be caused if the judge or court commissioner does not grant a protection order. The temporary order will be served on the person alleged to be a harasser, and if there is any willful disobedience of this order by the harasser, they will be subject to criminal penalties and possibly contempt of court.

Consult a Civil Protection Order Lawyer in the Seattle Area

If you are interested in obtaining or fighting a protection order related to telephone harassment in Seattle, you should retain a skillful attorney who understands the potential legal consequences associated with such an order. In some cases, such as those in which both the alleged victim and the alleged harasser have a family or household relationship, there may be family law and criminal consequences of such an order. Our firm has both a family law attorney and a criminal defense lawyer, so we can evaluate all of the angles of your case to determine an advantageous strategy for you. We also represent people in Redmond, Kirkland, Bellevue, and other cities in Kings County. Call us at (206) 622-6562 or contact us via our online form.