During domestic disputes, when tempers flare and tensions run high, it is not uncommon for one individual to prevent another from calling 911. He or she may hang up, hide, or even damage or break the phone.
Preventing such a call, however, can be a crime. This offense – “Interference with Emergency Telephone Calls” or “Interference with Emergency Request for Assistance” – is taken very seriously in Texas and can carry significant consequences.
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Here’s an overview of the offense, the punishment, and potential defenses. Anyone facing this charge should contact a skilled defense attorney who has substantial experience handling these types of cases.
What is Interference with Emergency Telephone Calls?
Under Section 42.062 of the Texas Penal Code, a person
commits Interference with a 911 or Emergency Telephone Call if he or she:
- Knowingly prevents or interferes with another person’s ability to place an emergency call or request assistance from a law enforcement agency, medical facility or other agency or entity dedicated to public safety; or
- Recklessly renders unusable a phone that would otherwise be used by someone to place an emergency phone call
Very often, we see this charge affiliated with domestic violence or assaultive situations. However, it can also apply to a wide array of other circumstances. For example, witnesses to a crime, such as robbery, may be prevented from calling 911.
What constitutes an “emergency?”
Under the law, “emergency” means a condition or circumstance in which any individual is or is reasonably believed by the individual making a telephone call to be in fear of imminent assault or in which property is or is reasonably believed by the individual making the call to be in imminent danger of damage or destruction.
This is a basically a complex way of saying that an emergency exits when a person believes, or reasonably believes, that he or she is in fear of being assaulted or that their property is or has been destroyed.
What is the punishment for Interference with Emergency Telephone Calls?
In most cases, Interfering with Emergency Telephone Calls is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.
However, if an individual has been convicted of this offense in the past, it is a state jail felony, punishable by six months to two years in a state jail facility and up to a $10,000 fine.
Are there any defenses to Interference with an Emergency Call?
For a prosecutor to convict an individual, they must prove
certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt, including that there was an “emergency” and the accused acted “intentionally” or “recklessly.” A skilled defense attorney will investigate every element of the case, determine what defenses are applicable, and develop a strategy in an effort to achieve a favorable result.
Facing a charge of Interference with Emergency Telephone Call? Contact Us.
If you or a loved one is facing a charge of Interfering with a 911 or Emergency Call, you will need an experienced Fort Worth criminal defense attorney to thoroughly evaluate your case and aggressively defend you. At Varghese Summersett, our lawyers have extensive experience handling serious criminal cases. Collectively, we bring together more than 100 years of criminal law experience and have tried more than 550 cases before Texas juries. Call us today for a complimentary strategy session.
During this call we will:
- Discuss the facts of your case;
- Discuss the legal issues involved, including the
direct and collateral consequences of the allegation; and
- Discuss the defenses that apply to your case and
in general terms discuss our approach to your case.
- Call: (817) 203-2220
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Penal Code Section 42.062
INTERFERENCE WITH EMERGENCY TELEPHONE CALLS.
(a) An individual commits an offense if the individual knowingly prevents or interferes with another individual's ability to place an emergency telephone call or to request assistance in an emergency from a law enforcement agency, medical facility, or other agency or entity the primary purpose of which is to provide for the safety of individuals.
(b) An individual commits an offense if the individual recklessly renders unusable a telephone that would otherwise be used by another individual to place an emergency telephone call or to request assistance in an emergency from a law enforcement agency, medical facility, or other agency or entity the primary purpose of which is to provide for the safety of individuals.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor, except that the offense is a state jail felony if the actor has previously been convicted under this section.
(d) In this section, "emergency" means a condition or circumstance in which any individual is or is reasonably believed by the individual making a telephone call to be in fear of imminent assault or in which property is or is reasonably believed by the individual making the telephone call to be in imminent danger of damage or destruction.