Suppose Jake and Emily have gotten into an argument. With her temper rising and upset that Jake won’t see her point of view, she attempts to push him, which could cause him to hit the back of his head on the wall behind him. Telling Emily that he is going to report her for the assault, Jake pulls out his phone and begins dialing 911. Before he can hit send, Emily snatches the phone from him, apologizes for the attempted shove, and asks him not to call the police.
Can Emily be charged with a crime for stopping Jake from calling 911?
In Texas, she can be. That’s because the state has a law that makes it illegal for anyone to knowingly interfere with another person calling for emergency assistance.
Texas Penal Code 42.062 doesn’t just prohibit people from preventing someone else from making an emergency call. It also criminalizes the reckless destruction of an electronic communication device that would have been used for this purpose.
Let’s return to the example of Jake and Emily. Say Jake’s phone was on a desk in the room where the argument was taking place. He tells Emily that he’s going to report her for attempting to push him and starts toward his phone. But Emily’s closer to the device and throws it against the wall, damaging it to the point that it’s unusable. Under the interference with emergency request for assistance law, Emily’s conduct is a chargeable offense.
What’s Considered an Emergency?
In the example given above, Emily prevents Jake from calling emergency services after an attempted assault. But that’s not the only type of conduct considered an emergency.
The law defines an emergency as a situation in which a person fears:
- Imminent assault, or
- Imminent property damage
This means that if Emily threatened to smash Jake’s windshield with a bat she was holding, and she stopped him from calling the cops, she could still be charged with a crime.
What Are the Conviction Penalties for Interfering with a 911 Call?
If this is a person’s first offense under the statute, they could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. The conviction penalties include up to $4,000 in fines and/or imprisonment for up to 1 year.
However, if the accused has been previously convicted of stopping someone from requesting emergency assistance, they could be charged with a state jail felony. This level of offense is punishable by between 180 days and 2 years in state jail. Additionally, a fine of up to $10,000 may be imposed.