People call 911 when they have an emergency. Calls should only be made to 911 when there is a true emergency to prevent the misuse of the 911 phone number. In Texas, people who prevent others from calling 911 can be charged with interference with an emergency call.
Interference with an emergency call is a serious criminal offense in Texas. Many people are not aware of the consequences associated with this crime. Below, we will discuss everything you need to know about the crime of interfering with emergency calls and making silent or abusive calls to 911.
If you or your loved one is facing criminal charges for interfering with emergency calls, do not hesitate to contact a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer. Our Gatesville criminal defense lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard have the necessary expertise and resources to help you avoid a conviction and protect your freedom.
What is Considered an Emergency Call?
In order to understand who can be charged with interfering with emergency calls, it is vital to figure out how the law defines “emergency calls.” Under Texas law, an emergency is a situation in a person reasonably believes that:
They are at risk of imminent harm; or
Their property could be damaged or destroyed.
For this reason, a person is making an emergency call when they dial 911 to request medical help or report their fear of harm or crime.
What is Interference with Emergency Calls?
Now that you know what constitutes an emergency under Texas law, you need to understand when you can be charged with interference with an emergency call, which is also known as interference with an emergency request for assistance.
Under Texas Penal Code § 42.062, you can face interference with an emergency request for assistance if you intentionally or knowingly:
Interfere with another person’s ability to make an emergency call; or
Destroy a phone that could be used by another person to make an emergency call.
According to the statute, you can be charged with interference with an emergency call for interfering with another person’s ability to request emergency assistance from:
A law enforcement agency
Hospital or any medical facility
Any other agency that provides the safety of the public
Do not hesitate to speak with a criminal lawyer if you are facing charges for interfering with an emergency request for assistance in Texas.
What Are the Penalties for Interference with an Emergency Request in Texas?
Contrary to popular belief, interference with an emergency call is a serious crime that carries harsh penalties in Texas. Under Texas law, the criminal offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to $4,000 in fines and a maximum jail sentence of one year.
However, the offense may be elevated to a felony if you have previous convictions for interfering with an emergency request. If the offense is classified as a felony due to your criminal history, you could face a maximum fine of $10,000 and up to 2 years in prison.
In addition to incarceration and fines, interfering with an emergency call can result in other negative consequences, including but not limited to:
Difficulties in finding employment
Difficulties in finding housing
The loss of a professional license
Inability to apply for public benefits
Inability to work certain jobs
Restricted gun ownership rights
These and other consequences can have a negative impact on your life for years to come. For this reason, it is vital to do whatever it takes to avoid a conviction. An experienced attorney can help you understand all of your defense options if you are facing interference with emergency call charges in Texas.
What is the Silent or Abusive Calls to 911 Offense?
The “silent or abusive calls to 911” is a separate offense under Texas law. As its name implies, a person can be charged with silent or abusive calls to 911 service for staying silent or making abusive statements to 911 when there is no actual emergency. The criminal offense is codified in Texas Penal Code § 42.061.
Under the statute, a person can be charged with this crime if he or she makes a call to 911 or requests emergency services using their phone or any other electronic communications devices when there is no actual emergency to intentionally or knowingly remain silent or make abusive/harassing statements to the 911 dispatcher.
The offense is a Class B misdemeanor in Texas, which includes penalties such as up to 180 days in jail and no more than $2,000 in fines.
Defenses to Interference with an Emergency Call in Texas
Since each case is unique, it is important to discuss your particular situation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to identify the best defense strategy in your specific case. Common defenses used by lawyers to defend clients facing interference with an emergency call charges include:
The defendant did not knowingly or intentionally interfere with the other person’s ability to make an emergency call
The defendant did not knowingly or intentionally damage or destroy a phone to prevent the other person from calling 911
The defendant was not the one who damaged or destroyed the phone
There was no actual emergency at the time of the alleged offense
The defendant was not aware that the other person was calling 911 or otherwise requesting emergency assistance
These and various other defense strategies can help you avoid a conviction and the harsh penalties associated with the interference with an emergency call conviction in Texas. Being accused of interfering with an emergency request is a serious matter in Texas.
Contact a Gatesville Criminal Defense Lawyer
Schedule a free case review with your criminal lawyers at The Law Office of Brett H. Pritchard to talk about your case and determine what steps you can take to get the charges against you dropped or reduced.Our attorneys are committed to providing each and every client with unmatched legal representation to ensure that they receive the best available outcome for their cases. Call (254) 220-4225 for an evaluation.