What is Interfering with Reporting?
When a domestic violence incident occurs, lawmakers want to make sure that victims are able to get the help they need without fear of further abuse. Under the Revised Code of Washington (RCW) section 9A.36.150, a person can be charged with interfering with the reporting of domestic violence if that person is accused of doing two things:
- Commits a domestic violence criminal offense
- Prevents or attempts to prevent a victim from calling 911 or law enforcement or seeking medical assistance
Both of these criteria must be met for a charge to be placed. In order to understand how an interfering with the reporting offense works, both of these criteria can be analyzed.
Domestic Violence Criminal Offenses in Seattle
Under RCW 10.99.020, a domestic violence crime can be any of the following crimes that are committed between family or household members or two people in a “dating relationship”:
- Assault in the first degree (RCW 9A.36.011)
- Assault in the second degree (RCW 9A.36.021)
- Assault in the third degree (RCW 9A.36.031)
- Assault in the fourth degree (RCW 9A.36.041)
- Drive-by shooting (RCW 9A.36.045)
- Reckless endangerment (RCW 9A.36.050)
- Coercion (RCW 9A.36.070)
- Burglary in the first degree (RCW 9A.52.020)
- Burglary in the second degree (RCW 9A.52.030)
- Criminal trespass in the first degree (RCW 9A.52.070)
- Criminal trespass in the second degree (RCW 9A.52.080)
- Malicious mischief in the first degree (RCW 9A.48.070)
- Malicious mischief in the second degree (RCW 9A.48.080)
- Malicious mischief in the third degree (RCW 9A.48.090)
- Kidnapping in the first degree (RCW 9A.40.020)
- Kidnapping in the second degree (RCW 9A.40.030)
- Unlawful imprisonment (RCW 9A.40.040)
- Violation of the provisions of a restraining order, no-contact order, or protection order
- Rape in the first degree (RCW 9A.44.040)
- Rape in the second degree (RCW 9A.44.050)
- Residential burglary (RCW 9A.52.025)
- Stalking (RCW 9A.46.110)
If one of these crimes was allegedly committed, a person can also be charged with interfering with reporting if they we prevented or attempted to prevent the victim from seeking aid.
Preventing a Victim from Seeking Aid
The second criteria for an interfering with reporting of domestic violence charge under 9A.36.150 (b) RCW is that a person commits a domestic violence offense and:
Prevents or attempts to prevent the victim of or a witness to that domestic violence crime from calling a 911 emergency communication system, obtaining medical assistance, or making a report to any law enforcement official.
This can be anything from grabbing a victim's arm to pulling a phone out of their hand, to threatening them. One of the key phrases in this section is “attempts to prevent” which means that even if the alleged victim is not actually stopped from calling police, the offender can still be charged with interfering if they did anything that could be considered an attempt to prevent the victim from calling for help. This is a tricky legal area, because two people may have an argument where one person punches a hole in the wall. This act could be considered malicious mischief and if the other person wants to call the police to report it and is told not to, this could be considered interfering with reporting of domestic violence.
Interfering with Reporting Penalties in Seattle
Interfering with reporting a domestic violence is a gross misdemeanor. Gross misdemeanors can result in a jail time up to 364 days or a fine of up to $5,000 or both. So, a person who pulls a cell phone out of a family member's hand during a fight can go to jail for up to one year for that offense and this sentence is on top of domestic violence charges for whatever criminal offense was committed. The exact sentence will be up to the judge to decide and can vary depending on the offender's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Interfering with Reporting Domestic Violence Defenses
Defending an interfering with reporting charge will require some skill. In most cases, an attorney will instead try to fight the domestic violence charges. If no domestic violence offense was committed, a person cannot be charged with interfering with reporting domestic violence. Even if a crime was committed, if it can be proven that the act was not domestic violence, the interfering charge may be dropped.
Another common defense an attorney can use is intent. If it cannot be proven that the person intended on stopping the alleged victim from seeking aid, there is no crime. For example, two people are having an argument in their home. One person becomes injured and attempts to call an ambulance. The second person does not realize the extent of their injuries and tells them to hang up the phone. The second person was not attempting to prevent the other from seeking aid, they just did not understand why they were making a call.