Harassment and Stalking Laws in Washington State

Harassment and stalking are ongoing problems in the Pacific Northwest. These allegations often come up because of a misunderstanding, as an outgrowth of bullying, or when online interactions become personal.

If you are facing allegations of stalking or harassment, remember that you are innocent until proven guilty, and that there are steps you can take to protect yourself, your reputation, and your legal rights.

Unfortunately, Washington state’s stalking and harassment statutes are very broad and encompass conduct that includes everything from hate crimes and assault to cyberstalking and violating a protective order.

Allegations of stalking or harassment can ruin your reputation, while a conviction carries severe penalties that can ruin your life.

If there is a silver lining, it is that to be convicted of harassment or stalking, the government must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Washington criminal defense attorney Justin Campbell can defend you in court against allegations of stalking or harassment and recommend steps you can take to protect your reputation.

Washington Harassment and Stalking Laws

Washington state’s stalking and harassment statutes are intended to make repeated violations of a person’s privacy unlawful. The goal of the law is to prohibit acts and threats that show a pattern of harassment that is intended to coerce, intimidate, or humiliate the victim.

Harassment

Under 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 electronic communication.

A person convicted of harassment is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. However, if any of the following apply, a harassment conviction will be a Class C felony:

  1. The person has previously been convicted in Washington or another 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 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;
  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.

RCW 9A.46.060 is extremely broad on what is considered a crime of harassment. For example, criminal trespass in the 2nd degree is considered a crime of harassment. It is important to mention that crimes are harassment are not limited to those listed in RCW 9A.46.060.

Stalking

Under 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.

Stalking is a gross misdemeanor unless:

(i) The stalker has previously been convicted…of any crime of harassment…;

(ii) the stalking violates any protective order protecting the person being stalked;

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

(iv) the stalker was armed with a deadly weapon...while stalking the person;

(v)(A) 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; or an employee of the child protective, child welfare, or adult protective services division within the department of social and health services; and (B) 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

(vi) 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.

If any of these conditions are met, stalking is a class B felony.

Stalking and Harassment in Schools

The laws that address stalking and harassment are constantly changing as the legislature and law enforcement agents crack down on these behaviors.

Schools are required to take action if a student reports being bullied or harassed, and juveniles who are found guilty of stalking or harassment face serious legal consequences.

Unfortunately, allegations of stalking and harassment are often exaggerated, with dire consequences. Allegations of stalking or harassment can ruin your life and your reputation.

But with an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side, you can challenge the allegations of stalking or harassment, protect your reputation, and avoid the consequences of a criminal conviction.

Contact The Campbell Law Firm for a Vigorous Legal Defense

If you have been charged with harassment or stalking, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney at your side who will vigorously defend you in court and protect your reputation in the community.

During our initial meeting, I will ask questions to fully understand your situation and begin preparing a vigorous legal defense. I will analyze the specific allegations, gather evidence, and represent you in court. I will also help manage your reputation and limit public exposure about the allegations or court case.

Learn why people choose The Campbell Law Firm and my approach to criminal defense. Read reviews from other people I’ve helped. Then contact me today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how I can help.

The Campbell Law Firm is based in Anacortes and represents people throughout Northwest Washington, including Skagit County, Island County, and San Juan County.

Categories: Criminal Defense