Harassment can be a felony or misdemeanor in Washington State, depending on the nature of the allegations and if there is any past history of harassment charges. A harassment arrest normally results from an alleged threat to either a person’s safety or property.
If a current or past domestic relationship is established between the accuser and accused, there are enhanced penalties that can increase the minimum required jail sentence. A No Contact Order is normally issued after an arrest for domestic violence harassment and the court may ask you to surrender any firearms you may own.
Causes of Violations
Threats that can result in a harassment arrest can be made in person, through text or email, or through another person. Any act that knowingly and maliciously is meant to threaten a person can meet the definition of harassment.
If there was no threat to kill the alleged victim AND there has been no history of harassment against the person or their family, gross misdemeanor charges will likely be filed. In WA State, a gross misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine. Other consequences can include court ordered anger management classes and treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.
Harassment charges can be a felony if there was a death threat or there has been a past harassment conviction against the alleged victim or one of their family members. A felony harassment charge is a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. For a first time offender with no criminal history, the minimum jail sentence would be between 1 and 3 months. If the domestic violence designation is added to the charge, the court could impose a longer than minimum jail term.
Defending Harassment Charges
There are several potential defenses to a harassment charge. We see many cases where charges are filed without any substantial proof or witnesses to collaborate the alleged victim’s story. If the allegations are frivolous, we can often times convince the prosecutor to drop the charges, based on the results of our independent investigation.
In domestic cases, the allegations are often times exaggerated or false. A harassment arrest can also be the result of communication that was never meant to be serious. We can often times make a case that the intent of the threat was not serious and that the alleged victim did not believe that the threat would be carried out.
Regardless of what happened, you deserve the best possible defense and you have a constitutional right to not incriminate yourself. At Beckwith DV Law, we fight harassment charges in Puget Sound courts that include Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Everett, and Olympia, Washington. Call us today for a free consultation.