Available 24/7 - Call for your   Free Consultation 253-383-3328

Harassment

Harassment Attorneys

As explained in RCW 9A.46.010, the legislature has found that the prevention of serious, personal harassment is an important government objective. The crimes in this section are aimed at making unlawful the repeated invasions of a person's privacy by acts and threats which show a pattern of harassment designed to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim. Due to the sensitive nature of these charges, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is incredibly important to protect your future.

Definition and Penalties

RCW 9A.46.020 explains the multiple ways in which a person can engage in the crime of Harassment. There are two levels of seriousness for a Harassment conviction, a gross misdemeanor and a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a Class C felony is 5 years in a state correctional facility, and/or a $10,000 fine.

The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in the county jail, and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of the gross misdemeanor version of harassment if: 

Without lawful authority, the person knowingly threatens:

  • To cause bodily injury immediately or in the future to the person threatened or to any other person; or
  • To cause physical damage to the property of a person other than the actor; or
  • To subject the person threatened or any other 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 or her 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.

A person is guilty of a class C felony version of harassment if:

  1. 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;
  2. The person harasses another person under subsection (1)(a)(i) of this section by threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person;
  3. The person harasses a criminal justice participant who is performing his or her official duties at the time the threat is made; or
  4. 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 1-4 above, 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.

For purposes of this section, a criminal justice participant includes any,

  • federal, state, or local law enforcement agency employee;
  • federal, state, or local prosecuting attorney or deputy prosecuting attorney;
  • staff member of any adult corrections institution or local adult detention facility;
  • staff member of any juvenile corrections institution or local juvenile detention facility;
  • community corrections officer, probation, or parole officer;
  • member of the indeterminate sentence review board; (g) advocate from a crime victim/witness program; or
  • defense attorney.

Whether you are convicted or not of Harassment, you could face more than just criminal penalties, as the statute specifically does not preclude the victim from seeking any other remedy otherwise available under law. Meaning, the alleged victim could sue you in civil court to seek a monetary judgment against you, or seek a protection, restraining, or anti-harassment order.

Place where committed

RCW 9A.46.030 lays out that a claim of harassment can be found to have been committed where the conduct occurred, where the threats were made, or where the threats were received. This can apply to a general harassment case explained above, or a criminal Stalking charge, RCW 9A.46.110, explained below.

This statute is important as it can impact which court your case may be in, which prosecutor's office will be handling your case, and other significant ramifications that arise depending on the specific facts of each case.

No Contact Order

RCW 9A.46.040 establishes the court's authority to issue a no contact order to anyone charged with a crime involving harassment that is released from custody on bail or personal recognizance while their case is pending.

In most courts this is a standard condition of release for these types of cases. It is not a determination of guilt or even likelihood of guilt, the purpose of a no contact order is to prevent any of the conduct that is alleged to have occurred from continuing.

It is critical to understand that should you violate a valid no contact order issued by the court, you can be charged with the crime of violating a no contact order, which is a gross misdemeanor, and each instance of violating the order can be an individual criminal charge. For example, if you send the person 10 text messages in violation of the order, the prosecutor could charge you with 10 new criminal charges, all gross misdemeanors. You can violate the order even if the protected party is the first one to engage contact. This becomes difficult if the alleged victim is a family member or significant other.

In addition, violating a no contact order against the alleged victim will only make your case that much more difficult to resolve favorably. It is important to take these seriously, judges and prosecutors do. Contact us at South Sound Law Group to speak with an experienced No Contact Order Attorney to learn more. 

Crimes included in harassment

RCW 9A.46.060 explains that, as used in this chapter, "harassment" may include but is not limited to a long list of crimes that can be found by clicking on the link. Contact South Sound Law Group to speak with one of our local criminal defense attorneys if you have any questions about you harassment charges or to schedule a free consultation.


Malicious Harassment

Hate Crime Offenses

RCW 9A.36.078: the legislature has found that crimes and threats against persons because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicaps are serious and increasing.

The legislature recognizes that, since 2015, Washington state has experienced a sharp increase in malicious harassment offenses, and, in response, the legislature intends to rename the offense to its more commonly understood title of "hate crime offense" and create a multidisciplinary working group to establish recommendations for best practices for identifying and responding to hate crimes.

Click the link above to read the full legislative finding.

Definition and Criminal Penalty

RCW 9A.36.080: Malicious harassment is a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a Class C felony is 5 years in a state correctional facility, and/or a $10,000 fine.

A person is guilty of malicious harassment if he or she maliciously and intentionally commits one of the following acts because of his or her perception of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap:

  • Causes physical injury to the victim or another person;
  • Causes physical damage to or destruction of the property of the victim or another person; or
  • Threatens a specific person or group of persons and places that person, or members of the specific group of persons, in reasonable fear of harm to person or property.
    • The fear must be a fear that a reasonable person would have under all the circumstances.
    • For purposes of this section, a "reasonable person" is a reasonable person who is a member of the victim's race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or who has the same mental, physical, or sensory handicap as the victim.
    • Words alone do not constitute malicious harassment unless the context or circumstances surrounding the words indicate the words are a threat.
    • Threatening words do not constitute malicious harassment if it is apparent to the victim that the person does not have the ability to carry out the threat.

In any prosecution for malicious harassment, unless evidence exists which explains to the trier of fact's satisfaction that the person did not intend to threaten the victim or victims, the trier of fact may infer that the person intended to threaten a specific victim or group of victims because of the person's perception of the victim's or victims' race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap if the person commits one of the following acts:

  • Burns a cross on property of a victim who is or whom the actor perceives to be of African American heritage; or
  • Defaces property of a victim who is or whom the actor perceives to be of Jewish heritage by defacing the property with a swastika.

It is not a defense that the accused was mistaken that the victim was a member of a certain race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, or sexual orientation, or had a mental, physical, or sensory handicap.

Evidence of expressions or associations of the accused may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial unless the evidence specifically relates to the crime charged. Nothing in this chapter shall affect the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.

Every person who commits another crime during the commission of a crime under this section may be punished and prosecuted for the other crime separately.

Civil Action

RCW 9A.36.083 explains that in addition to the criminal penalty provided in RCW 9A.36.080 for committing a crime of malicious harassment, the victim may bring a civil cause of action for malicious harassment against the harasser. 

  • A person may be liable to the victim of malicious harassment for actual damages, punitive damages of up to ten thousand dollars, and reasonable attorneys' fees and costs incurred in bringing the action.

At South Sound Law Group, because we have criminal defense attorneys and injury attorneys, we are uniquely qualified to handle both criminal defense cases and civil actions and the fact that we have experienced doing both, puts us in the best position to obtain a favorable result for all of our clients regardless of which type of action we represent you on.


Telephone Harassment

RCW 9.61.230: Telephone Harassment can be committed in multiple different ways. There are two levels of seriousness for a Telephone Harassment conviction, a gross misdemeanor and a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a Class C felony is 5 years in a state correctional facility, and/or a $10,000 fine.

The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in the county jail, and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of the gross misdemeanor version of Telephone Harassment if: 

Every person who, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment or embarrass any other person, shall make a telephone call to such other person:

  • Using any lewd, lascivious, profane, indecent, or obscene words or language, or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act; or
  • Anonymously or repeatedly or at an extremely inconvenient hour, whether or not conversation ensues; or
  • Threatening to inflict injury on the person or property of the person called or any member of his or her family or household;

A person is guilty of a Class C felony version of Telephone Harassment if:

That person has previously been convicted of any crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, with the same victim or member of the victim's family or household or any person specifically named in a no-contact or no-harassment order in this or any other state;

OR

That person harasses another person under subsection (1)(c) of this section by threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person.


Stalking

RCW 9A.46.110: The crime of Stalking can be committed in multiple different ways. There are two levels of seriousness for a Stalking conviction, a gross misdemeanor and a Class B felony.

The maximum sentence for a Class B felony is 10 years in a state correctional facility, and/or a $20,000 fine.

The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in the county jail, and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of the gross misdemeanor version of Stalking if: 

A person commits the crime of stalking if, without lawful authority and under circumstances not amounting to a felony attempt of another crime:

He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and

The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or property of the person or of another person. The feeling of fear must be one that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances; and

The stalker either:

  • Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or
  • Knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person.

It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(i) of this section that the stalker was not given actual notice that the person did not want the stalker to contact or follow the person; and It is not a defense to the crime of stalking under subsection (1)(c)(ii) of this section that the stalker did not intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person.

It shall be a defense to the crime of stalking that the defendant is a licensed private investigator acting within the capacity of his or her license as provided by chapter 18.165 RCW.

Attempts to contact or follow the person after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the stalker intends to intimidate or harass the person.

"Contact" includes, in addition to any other form of contact or communication, the sending of an electronic communication to the person.

A person is guilty of a Class B felony version of Stalking if:

The stalker has previously been convicted in this state 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 protective order;

The stalking violates any protective order protecting the person being stalked;

The stalker has previously been convicted of a gross misdemeanor or felony stalking offense under this section for stalking another person;

The stalker was armed with a deadly weapon, as defined in RCW 9.94A.825, while stalking the person;

The stalker's victim is or was a law enforcement officer; judge; juror; attorney; victim advocate; legislator; community corrections' officer; an employee, contract staff person, or volunteer of a correctional agency; court employee, court clerk, or courthouse facilitator; or an employee of the child protective, child welfare, or adult protective services division within the department of social and health services; AND the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim for an act the victim performed during the course of official duties or to influence the victim's performance of official duties; or

The stalker's victim is a current, former, or prospective witness in an adjudicative proceeding, and the stalker stalked the victim to retaliate against the victim as a result of the victim's testimony or potential testimony.

Important Definitions

"Follows" means deliberately maintaining visual or physical proximity to a specific person over a period of time. A finding that the alleged stalker repeatedly and deliberately appears at the person's home, school, place of employment, business, or any other location to maintain visual or physical proximity to the person is sufficient to find that the alleged stalker follows the person. It is not necessary to establish that the alleged stalker follows the person while in transit from one location to another.

"Harasses" means unlawful harassment as defined in RCW 10.14.020.

"Protective order" means any temporary or permanent court order prohibiting or limiting violence against, harassment of, contact or communication with, or physical proximity to another person.

"Repeatedly" means on two or more separate occasions.


Cyberstalking

RCW 9.61.260: The crime of Cyberstalking can be committed in multiple different ways. There are two levels of seriousness for a Cyberstalking conviction, a gross misdemeanor and a Class C felony.

The maximum sentence for a Class C felony is 5 years in a state correctional facility, and/or a $10,000 fine.

The maximum sentence for a gross misdemeanor is 364 days in the county jail, and/or a $5,000 fine.

A person is guilty of the gross misdemeanor version of Cyberstalking if: 

he or she, with intent to harass, intimidate, torment, or embarrass any other person, and under circumstances not constituting telephone harassment, makes an electronic communication to such other person or a third party:

  • Using any lewd, lascivious, indecent, or obscene words, images, or language, or suggesting the commission of any lewd or lascivious act;
  • Anonymously or repeatedly whether or not conversation occurs; or
  • Threatening to inflict injury on the person or property of the person called or any member of his or her family or household.

A person is guilty of a Class B felony version of Stalking if:

The perpetrator has previously been convicted of the crime of harassment, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060, with the same victim or a member of the victim's family or household or any person specifically named in a no-contact order or no-harassment order in this or any other state; or

The perpetrator engages in the behavior prohibited under subsection (1)(c) of this section by threatening to kill the person threatened or any other person.

Any offense committed under this section may be deemed to have been committed either at the place from which the communication was made or at the place where the communication was received.

For purposes of this section, "electronic communication" means the transmission of information by wire, radio, optical cable, electromagnetic, or other similar means. "Electronic communication" includes, but is not limited to, electronic mail, internet-based communications, pager service, and electronic text messaging.

Incidents of Cyberstalking have increased as rapidly as the increase in technology and connectivity through apps and webpages. These new technologies make it increasingly easy to contact or keep track of people. We all share too much of our lives online which can create problematic situations that may never have occurred if the conversations or attention occurred face to face. These cases are emotionally charged and judges and prosecutors are always worried about the worst case scenario that ends up in the paper with violence or kidnapping, or death. These are not criminal charges to be taken lightly, especially if you've had prior convictions for similar conduct.

No matter what criminal charge you are facing, hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney will give you the best chance to obtain a favorable result. At South Sound Law Group, we have experienced fighting criminal charged in Olympia, Tacoma, Seattle, and every city and county in-between. Schedule a free consultation to speak with a local attorney about all your options.

Contact Us

We are located next to the building that holds the Pierce County District Court, Pierce County Superior Court, and the Tacoma Municipal Court. We have free client parking in the alley located between South G St. and Yakima Ave. If you have any trouble finding our location or have a question about scheduling an appointment give us a call at 253-383-3328.

705 South 9th St
Ste 204

Tacoma, WA 98405
253-383-3328
Mon, Tue, Wed, Thu, Fri: 08:30am - 05:00pm

Menu