What are the Penalties for Interfering with an Emergency Call?
Preventing or otherwise impeding a person from making an emergency call is a crime in Texas. Those who are convicted face serious penalties, which is a testament to how seriously Texas takes this offense. Many people end up interfering with an emergency call because they do not even know that this is a crime in the first place, but they could soon find themselves in jail and facing an uncertain legal future.
If you’ve been accused of interfering with an emergency call, you need to reach out to a Collin County criminal defense attorney immediately. The sooner you begin building a defense, the better your chances of beating the charge.
What is Interfering with an Emergency Call?
Texas Penal Code Section 42.062 lays out the elements of the offense:
- A person knowingly interferes or blocks another person’s attempt to make an emergency call or to request assistance from the police, hospital, or other entity which is primarily focused on providing safety to individuals.
- A person recklessly damages a telephone that a person could have otherwise used to make an emergency call.
Let’s look at some examples:
Example A: A boyfriend beats up his girlfriend and then grabs the phone out of her hands when he sees her trying to make a call for help. In this case, he is interfering with her ability to call the police, so he can be charged with interference with an emergency telephone call (in addition to domestic violence).
Example B: While attacking her boyfriend, a woman takes his cell phone and smashes it with a hammer so that he can’t call 911. Because she has recklessly damaged a phone that could be used to call the police, she could also be charged with interference with an emergency telephone call.
As you can see, the statute is broadly written, so many types of conduct could fall under the statute and be criminal.
How Serious are the Penalties?
Interfering with an emergency call is a Class A misdemeanor, which can net you the following penalties:
- A maximum of a year in jail
- A maximum $4,000 fine
If this is not your first conviction, then you could be charged with a felony, which would have disastrous consequences. Felons can face up to 2 years and jail and up to a $10,000 fine. Also, felons in Texas lose their right to possess a firearm.
Even if you are convicted of a misdemeanor, there are repercussions that will last long after you have repaid your debt to society. A criminal conviction will follow you around wherever you go. If you apply for a job or an apartment, for example, then your conviction could come up in a background check, making it harder for you to get a job or apartment.
What Defenses Can You Raise to this Charge?
Every case is different, so some defenses might be appropriate for one client but not for another. However, here are some of the more common defenses we have seen raised:
- The defendant did not recklessly destroy or damage a phone. Instead, they might have damaged the phone negligently.
- The defendant was not the person who disabled or damaged the phone. The person trying to make the call might have damaged it.
- There was no emergency taking place that would have warranted a call to the police or 911. An emergency is defined as fear of imminent assault or damage to property.
- The defendant did not know that the caller was dialing 911 or otherwise placing a call to request emergency assistance.
In other situations, the best defense might be to point to your clean criminal history and ask for leniency. This might be possible especially when the interference did not take place in the context of domestic violence. To determine which defense is best, contact an attorney right away.
Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Collin County
If you have been picked up for domestic violence or interference with an emergency call, you need to take quick action. The decisions you make in the moments after being arrested will impact whether you can successfully beat the charge.
No decision is greater than choosing the right criminal defense attorney to represent you. Some lawyers trust the prosecutor to do the right thing for their client and let the legal process play out. Other defense attorneys understand that the state has no incentive to cut a deal with a defendant unless they can poke holes in the state’s case.
For more information, please contact us today by calling (972) 369-0577.