Harassment Defense Attorneys
The legal definition of "harassment", is often different than what the average person considers to be "harassment". Under the law in Washington, harassment is defined by RCW 9A.46.020:
1) A person is guilty of harassment if:
(a) Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens:
(i) To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or
(ii) To cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or
(iii) To subject the person threatened or any other person to physical confinement or restraint; or
(iv) Maliciously to do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened or another with respect to his or her physical or mental health or safety; and
(b) 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.
(2) (a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, a person who harasses another is guilty of a gross misdemeanor.
(b) A person who harasses another is guilty of a class C felony if any of the following apply:
(i) The person has previously been convicted in this or any other state of any crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, of the same victim or members of the victim's family or household or any person specifically named in a no-contact or no-harassment order;
(ii) the person harasses another person under subsection (1)(a)(i) of this section by threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person;
(iii) the person harasses a criminal justice participant who is performing his or her official duties at the time the threat is made; or
(iv) the person harasses a criminal justice participant because of an action taken or decision made by the criminal justice participant during the performance of his or her official duties. For the purposes of (b)(iii) and (iv) of this subsection, the fear from the threat must be a fear that a reasonable criminal justice participant would have under all the circumstances. Threatening words do not constitute harassment if it is apparent to the criminal justice participant that the person does not have the present and future ability to carry out the threat.
(3) Any criminal justice participant who is a target for threats or harassment prohibited under subsection (2)(b)(iii) or (iv) of this section, and any family members residing with him or her, shall be eligible for the address confidentiality program created under RCW 40.24.030.
(4) For purposes of this section, a criminal justice participant includes any (a) federal, state, or local law enforcement agency employee; (b) federal, state, or local prosecuting attorney or deputy prosecuting attorney; (c) staff member of any adult corrections institution or local adult detention facility; (d) staff member of any juvenile corrections institution or local juvenile detention facility; (e) community corrections officer, probation, or parole officer; (f) member of the indeterminate sentence review board; (g) advocate from a crime victim/witness program; or (h) defense attorney.
(5) The penalties provided in this section for harassment do not preclude the victim from seeking any other remedy otherwise available under law.
Harassment is most often prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor crime, punishable by up to 364 days in jail, and by a fine of up to $5000. Those who are convicted of harassment will also be required to provide a DNA sample to law enforcement.
Harassment can also be prosecuted as a Class C felony (punishable by up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000.00 maximum fine) if the alleged harassment involves: 1) threats to kill; 2) if the harasser has been previously convicted of harassment; or 3) is directed against a criminal justice participant.
Most of the harassment cases we see in our office boil down to two statements: 1) "I'm gonna kick your ass!"; and 2) "I'm gonna kill you!". These kinds of threats are made on a daily basis, and we've all been guilty of telling someone one or both of these statements. Sometimes both at the same time! However, most of the time we don't mean them in a literal sense, we just mean to demonstrate our distaste for the person the remark is directed to. This is an important distinction, as the courts have ruled that the threat has to be a "true threat". The courts have sought to ensure that constitutionally protected "free speech" is not prosecuted as a "threat", by drawing the distinction between "free speech" and "true threats".
A true threat is defined in the case of State v. Kilburn as:
"a statement made in a context or under such circumstances wherein a reasonable person would foresee that the statement would be interpreted … as a serious expression of intention to inflict bodily harm upon or to take the life of another person. A true threat is a serious threat, not one said in jest, idle talk, or political argument. Under this standard, whether a true threat has been made is determined under an objective standard that focuses on the speaker."
Our job as criminal defense attorneys is to convince anyone who will listen that you did not mean the statement as as a true threat. Sometimes we are trying to convince the police, sometimes the prosecutor, and sometimes a jury.
Accused of Harassment? Contact a Lawyer Now
When you are facing serious criminal charges we can help. Call us at (253) 867-2675 to schedule a free initial consultation.