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STALKING AND HARASSMENT IN WASHINGTON STATE

Posted by Michelle Dellino | Jun 10, 2016 | 0 Comments

Social media outlets provide an unfortunate, rampant arena for harassment and bullying, particularly among teenagers and young adults. The opposite of “ghosting” is stalking and harassment. Are you a victim or being falsely accused? We can help.

The Seattle Times reports another incident this week where online harassment hit a dangerous level. An 18 year old high school student in Everett was arrested for threatening a classmate on Snapchat. The suspect reportedly sent a Snapchat video of the Colombine shooting to the victim, and an image of two masked males holding an assault rifle and pistol. The victim reported to have received additional threatening messages from the suspect as well, including while the victim was being interviewed by deputies. The suspect has been booked for investigation of stalking and felony harassment.

In addition to the immense emotional impacts on the victims of harassment and threats, there are very legal potential ramifications for the one accused of this behavior.

The following is a breakdown of stalking and harassment laws in Washington State:

Stalking:

*Defining Stalking Law (RCW 9a.46.110):

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

(a) He or she intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person; and

(b) 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

(c) The stalker either:

  • (i) Intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person; or
  • (ii) 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.

*Penalties:

  • Stalking can be a Felony or a Gross Misdemeanor in Washington State.
  • Gross Misdemeanor: If the above criteria are met, the person will be charged with a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • Felony Stalking: Class B felony charges will be filed if the above criteria are met, with additional circumstances, as defined in RCW 9a.46.110. Some of these circumstances include stalking which violates a protection order, the defendant having a prior conviction for stalking, or the defendant in possession of a deadly weapon during the stalking. See RCW 9a.46.110 for all of the felony criteria. Class B felonies carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $20,000.
  • Stalking charges are similar to harassment charges, and these charges are often filed simultaneously.

Harassment:

*Defining Harassment Law (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.

*Penalties:

  • Harassment can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the nature of the case.
  • Gross Misdemeanor: If the above criteria are met, the person will be charged with a Gross Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5,000 fine
  • Felony Harassment: Class C felony charges will be filed if the above criteria are met, with additional circumstances, as defined in RCW 9a.46.020. The crime may be a felony if there has been a past harassment conviction against the victim or a family member of the victim, or if there is a death threat involved. Class C felonies carry penalties of up to 5 years in prison and fines of up to $10,000.

Legal Representation:

If you find yourself being victimized and need to protect yourself or if you are being falsely accused of stalking or harassment, we can help. If you have been victimized, we can assist you around your rights and help you pursue avenues by which to protect yourself. If you have been accused of stalking or harassment, you need legal representation immediately in order to ensure the best possible outcome in your case. In addition to jail or prison time and fines, the conviction of one of these crimes will leave you with the long term impacts of having a criminal record. Your job, relationships, and livelihood are at stake. We are aware that stalking or harassment charges may be the result of a misunderstanding or may be related to an accuser who is vindictive. We will explore the ins and outs of your unique case and advocate for the best possible results. Please contact us today for a Free Consultation.

About the Author

Michelle Dellino

Managing Attorney

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