A Bigger Deal Than You Might Think
In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. Victims need help in the most timely fashion possible. To that end, it is a crime in Oklahoma to intentionally interfere, interrupt, or impede anyone who is attempting to or is in the process of making or placing an emergency telephone call. Interfering with an emergency call in Oklahoma is a crime. Okla. Stat. 21 § 1211.1
The law is designed to prevent anyone from interfering once someone has started to reach out for help, often by calling 911. It is punishable by up to a year in jail, a fine of up to $3,000, or both.
People call for help all the time after car and vehicular accidents. People also call for help during domestic arguments if they feel threatened or vulnerable, they call for help during rapes, home invasions, and during robberies. All too often, when there is a victim calling for help, there is another party who would like to delay the arrival of help.
On the other end of the spectrum is a person who calls for help even though a domestic squabble is already starting to calm down. Some people might call police maliciously to wrongly accuse someone out of spite or revenge.
Whatever the situation, the law is clear, once someone starts to make a call for emergency services, it is a crime to stop that process. This includes hanging up, breaking the phone, cutting phone wires, or any other action that may interfere with the call.
Interfering with an Emergency Call: Examples
Consider this situation for a moment. A 911 operator answers a call. A voice at the other end of the line is crying and asking for help. Suddenly, the line goes dead.
The 911 operator tries to call back, but there is no response. The 911 operator finds the address and dispatches police to the address.
When police get there, they encounter a severe domestic quarrel. The phone has been ripped out of the wall, wires left dangling. Bruises on the forearm of the person who placed the call indicate possible defensive injuries. It is a common scenario, and the reason lawmakers have protected communication between the public and emergency services.
Consider another scenario. A teenager arrives home late, well after midnight. Unsatisfied with explanations, a parent tells the teen they are grounded and can’t use their Xbox for a month. Irate, the teen threatens to call police and report the parent for stealing the Xbox, kidnapping, or any other false allegation the petulant teen can imagine.
The teen is essentially threatening to falsely report a crime and dials 911. The parent grabs the phone and says, “I’m taking that, too.”
When 911 dispatchers call back, their call goes to voicemail. They have no choice but to dispatch police and find out the nature of the call.
In each case, police and prosecutors might charge interfering with an emergency call. In each case, police are left to speculate whether the accused deliberately interfered with an emergency call based on the statements of witnesses and suspects.
When emergency services personnel arrive, they can sort out what help may be needed.
In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to stop a caller. You might think that the matter is really under control. However, if you interfere with the caller, you could take an already difficult situation and make it worse.
An skilled Tulsa criminal defense attorney can help sort out a situation and protect your rights and freedom. Call today.
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