Degrees of Harassment in Washington

By Salvatore Jackson
Harassment in Washington is generally punishable as a gross misdemeanor.

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Harassment is the act of intentionally threatening to cause bodily injury, damage to property, physical confinement, or harm to the physical or mental health of another. Under Washington law, the punishment for harassment can vary due to several factors, including the criminal history of the person committing the crime, whether the harassment is ongoing, and if it is occurring due to a person’s refusal to join or remain in a gang.

Misdemeanor Harassment

Under Washington law, harassment is punished as a gross misdemeanor unless it qualifies for a sentence enhancement. Sentence enhancers may involve stalking or criminal gang intimidation. The punishment for harassment in Washington does not change according to the method by which the harassment takes places, such as telephone harassment or harassment via computer. The punishment for harassment classified as a gross misdemeanor is a maximum of 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both.

Felony Harassment

Harassment can qualify for the sentence enhancement of felony harassment if the person has a prior conviction for harassment against the same victim, a member of the victim’s household, or against a person appearing on a no-contact order as the victim. Felony harassment also occurs if the harassment is a threat to kill someone or if the threat is against a member of the criminal judicial system. Felony harassment is punishable as a class C felony, which has a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Stalking

Stalking involves intentional and repetitive harassment of another. Harassment qualifies as stalking if the victim is in reasonable fear of injury to her person or property. The stalker must know or should know that the harassment has placed the victim in fear. Stalking is punishable as a gross misdemeanor unless the stalker has a prior conviction for harassment against the same victim or member of the victim’s household or there is a restraining order in place. It's also a gross misdemeanor if the stalker has a prior conviction for stalking against any person, if he used a weapon, if the victim is a member of the judiciary, law enforcement or social services, or if the victim is a witness in a judicial proceeding. If any of these conditions apply, stalking is punished as a class B felony, which has a maximum punishment of ten years imprisonment, a fine of up to $20,000, or both.

Criminal Gang Intimidation

Harassment qualifies for the criminal gang intimidation sentence enhancement if the harassment occurs because the victim either refuses to join or attempts to leave a gang. For the sentencing enhancement to apply, either the victim or the harasser must attend or be registered to attend a public or alternative school. Criminal gang intimidation is punishable as a class C felony.

About the Author

Salvatore Jackson began writing professionally in 2010. He has experience with international travel, computers, sports and law. Jackson is a licensed attorney with experience in legal research. He received his Juris Doctor from Tulane University in 2010.

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