Texas Penal Code 42.061 – Silent or Abusive Calls to 9-1-1 Service
WHAT IS SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
The Texas law against silent or abusive calls to 9-1-1 service prohibits calling 9-1-1 when there is no emergency, staying silent prior to hanging up, or making abusive or harassing statements to dispatch.
WHAT IS THE SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE LAW IN TEXAS?
Tex. Penal Code § 42.061. SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE.
(b) A person commits an offense if the person makes a call to a 9-1-1 service, or requests 9-1-1 service using an electronic communications device, when there is not an emergency and knowingly or intentionally:
(1) remains silent; or
(2) makes abusive or harassing statements to a PSAP employee.
(c) A person commits an offense if the person knowingly permits an electronic communications device, including a telephone, under the person’s control to be used by another person in a manner described in Subsection (b).
(d) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY CLASS FOR SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
Silent or abusive calls to a 9-1-1 service is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in county jail.
WHAT IS THE PUNISHMENT RANGE FOR SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
The punishment range for silent or abusive calls to a 9-1-1 service, a Class B misdemeanor, is up to 180 days in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,000.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
A person charged with making silent or abusive calls to a 9-1-1 service may be eligible for probation after a conviction, or deferred adjudication without a conviction, for a maximum period of two years.
WHAT ARE THE DEFENSES TO SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
A person accused of silent or abusive 9-1-1 calls may defend against the charge by asserting a lack of intent.
- Are accidental 9-1-1 calls a crime? For a person to be convicted of silent or abusive calls to 9-1-1, the State must show he or she intentionally or knowingly remained silent or made “abusive or harassing statements” to dispatch. If a person did not intend to request emergency services in a non-emergency, and knowingly hangs up immediately or apologizes, they did not intentionally or knowingly commit the offense. In practice, law enforcement only arrests a caller if several non-emergency calls are made.For example, in Atkins v. State, the defendant was charged with silent or abusive 9-1-1 calls after making five hang-up 9-1-1 calls in one night, and two more the following night. Officers responded both nights, and arrested the defendant after the seventh call in two days. He claimed he “butt-dialed” those calls, but was ultimately convicted. The State showed at trial the defendant made 64 calls to 9-1-1 in the months surrounding the two nights in question, which tended to show his calls were not an accident.
WHAT IS THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS FOR SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS?
The limitation period for silent or abusive calls to a 9-1-1 service, a Class B misdemeanor, is two years.
SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE IN TEXAS
The public has an interest in keeping 9-1-1 service communication lines clear for true reports of crimes and emergencies. In furtherance of this safety interest, Texas law punishes making harassing, repeated, or silent calls when there is no emergency requiring a response.
TEXAS SILENT OR ABUSIVE CALLS TO 9-1-1 SERVICE COURT CASES
The case law regarding silent or abusive call to 9-1-1 service in Texas explains the low threshold required to show calls are “abusive” or “harassing.”
- In Clark v. State, defendant was convicted of silent or abusive calls for making seven non-emergency calls to 9-1-1. She argued her calls were not “abusive” or “harassing” because she did not threaten anyone, raise her voice, or use profanity. The appellate court affirmed her conviction—“harassing” includes persistently disturbing, bothering, or pestering another person, regardless of whether one’s voice is raised or menacing. The defendant repeatedly called 911 despite being told her concerns were not an emergency.
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DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15
Driving facts involved failing to maintain a single lane and speeding. Client refused breath test and forced law enforcement to obtain search warrant for blood. Blood test result was not used after challenge from Defense, and State waived and abandoned charge.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client was a college student, worried about the collateral consequences of an alcohol offense. After negotiation and review of the traffic stop, the case was dismissed. Client received no criminal conviction. The charge was later expunged and deleted from client’s record.
DRIVING WHILE INTOXICATED .15+
Client was involved in minor accident. Client was at fault in accident. A young executive, client was concerned that a criminal conviction for DWI would result in termination. After review of the traffic stop, it was clear the officer lacked probable cause for arrest. State eventually dismissed DWI charge. Client received no criminal conviction.
Client, a military veteran, was facing up to one year in jail. State could not prove intoxication by alcohol, and was prepared to proceed on loss of use by marijuana. After challenging the State to prove that marijuana was ingested at or near time of driving, and that marijuana impaired client’s driving, the State dismissed the case on the day of trial.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Driving facts involved a false claim by police that taillight was out. After challenging the reasonable suspicion for the traffic stop, the State was forced to dismiss the case when video did not match police report. Client has since expunged arrest, and has no criminal record.
DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE
Client is a public school teacher and faced immediate termination upon conviction. The facts of the case were bad. State was unwilling to budge in negotiation, and matter was set for trial – the last shot at avoiding a conviction and preserving client’s livelihood. State was forced to dismiss on day of trial. Client has no criminal record, and has since expunged the DWI arrest.
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