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Interference with an Emergency Communication

Imagine a situation where you and your spouse get into a verbal disagreement, and they threaten to call the police and have you arrested by falsely accusing you of assault. What do you do? If you decide to rip the phone out of the wall, or break their cell-phone, or refuse to allow them to call the police, you may find yourself faced with additional criminal charges other than just those your spouse was going to call the police about. Interfering with an emergency communication, a class A1 misdemeanor punishable by a maximum sentence of 150 days in jail, covers a wide variety of situations, including the one above.

There are two general ways by which one can be found to have satisfied the elements of interfering with an emergency communication: the first covers situations where a person intentionally interfered with the communication knowing it was for an emergency, and the second covers situations where a person interferes or tampers with the actual apparatus used to communicate the emergency in an attempt to prevent it from being made. The difference is subtle; if you restrain a person from making the call, you have arguably violated the first, but if you break the phone so they cannot make the call, you have arguably violated the second.

Many issues arise depending on the facts; for example, what satisfies the requirement that it be an “emergency” communication? The statute gives some insight into how to answer this question by way of example; any communication which tries to alert law enforcement, emergency professionals, or an “individual” regarding the imminent possibility of bodily injury satisfies the requirement, as does notifying the same people that property (whether your own or someone else’s) is about to be damaged or stolen. If you are driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and get into a car crash, if you prevent the driver of the car you hit from telling an innocent bystander to call the police, due to the Legislatures inclusion of “or other individuals” you could possibly be found to have interfered with an emergency communication.

What does it mean to “intentionally interfere?” Again, the statute outlines several situations which can satisfy the requirement. If your spouse calls the police, and then you call right afterwards and tell them the situation has been resolved, you have arguably interfered with an emergency communication. If you hide or break your spouse’s cell phone to prevent them from calling the police, you have arguably interfered with an emergency communication. If you unlawfully disable a home security system, you have also arguably interfered with an emergency communication.

Obviously, people find themselves in situations where they may not have the time to think about their actions, and in the heat of the moment they react, and the way in which they react can cause them to be in a worse situation than if they had simply walked away. From the example above discussing your spouse filing a false claim against you, if you had just walked away you may have been able to prove to the court that the allegations of assault were based completely on lies. But by ripping the phone out of the wall, you could now find yourself faced with another serious charge.

Can you be found guilty of both A1 misdemeanors outlined in the statute for the same conduct? As is often the case when dealing with criminal charges, it depends, and at Arnold & Smith, PLLC our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys can help you find the answer. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.