While the phone is an essential part of everyday modern life for most of us, especially given the mobility and technological advantages of smartphones, they don’t come without legal obligations and responsibilities. In the state of Colorado, it is unlawful for someone to interrupt an electronic communication device, whether that is a cell phone, a landline, or any other communication apparatus. This ensures that the person who is in possession of that device is able to use it in cases of emergency. To obstruct or tamper with telephone service in Colorado is considered a serious criminal offense.
What is Considered Telephone Obstruction in Colorado?
Colorado Revised Statutes Title 18. Criminal Code § 18-9-306.5 Obstruction of telephone or telegraph service makes telephone obstruction unlawful in the state of Colorado. Provisions of this section read:
“A person commits obstruction of telephone or telegraph service if the person knowingly prevents, obstructs, or delays, by any means whatsoever, the sending, transmission, conveyance, or delivery in this state of any message, communication, or report by or through any telegraph or telephone line, wire, cable, or other facility or any cordless, wireless, electronic, mechanical, or other device.”
You are in violation of this section if you have taken a phone away from someone trying to call for any emergency services without their consent. An obstruction of telephone service charge is a serious criminal charge against you, resulting in penalties, fines, possible jail time, and a criminal mark on your record.
An Example of Telephone Obstruction
A common example of obstruction of telephone service is a couple having an argument. In the heat of the moment, one of them picks up their phone to call 911. The other party angrily grabs the phone, not realizing the call has already gone through. The police are dispatched, and the person who grabbed the phone will be charged with obstruction of telephone service.
In What Cases is Someone Charged with Telephone Obstruction?
Anyone who has prevented another from communicating with emergency services can be charged with telephone obstruction, whether that person cut the lines to a home landline or took away another person’s cell phone. Although taking away someone’s phone may sound insignificant, it is anything but. Obstruction of telephone service in Colorado is considered a class 1 misdemeanor and subject to criminal penalties.
Obstruction of Telephone Service and Domestic Violence
Telephone obstruction often coincides with domestic violence charges. In cases of domestic violence, many times one partner is attempting to call emergency services to get police dispatched. If the other party interrupts the call, damages the phone, or forces the calling partner to hang up, there can be serious potential consequences. Unfortunately, individuals don’t think about these in the heat of the moment.
A misdemeanor domestic violence charge may start with the above scenario. Under Colorado law, police have little discretion when it comes to domestic violence. Law enforcement officers take telephone obstruction very seriously, particularly if they have cause to believe it is part of a domestic violence incident. If the police have probable cause that domestic violence was involved, they are required to make a mandatory arrest in Colorado.
A mandatory arrest means that one person will be charged and held in jail until further instruction by the court. Once released, that individual is subject to protection orders that will keep him or her from the other party for seven days or longer. While these measures were meant to protect individuals from domestic violence, unfortunately, innocent people can be charged in this scenario.
Some Things to Consider Before Calling Police
Although calling the police or 911 may seem like a reasonable thing to do in the midst of an argument, it is not always the best course of action. If there are accusations of or police even suspect domestic violence, the individual being called about will be arrested and will suffer the consequences of criminal charges.
Even if you call 911 and hang up, this is seen as the same thing. 911 will dispatch police even after the hang-up and a telephone obstruction charge can be made. The decision to call 911 should never be a frivolous one.
Many “victims” in domestic violence cases call the police because they want help deescalating a situation, not because they want their spouse or significant other to go to jail. However, the police do not have the job of deescalating a situation when there is probable cause to believe that anything illegal (and a lot of normal everyday things are technically illegal) happened. They have the job of making an arrest. After the arrest, the District Attorney’s Office has the job of prosecuting the case and cannot dismiss a domestic violence case if there is probable cause that anything illegal happened between an intimate couple. While people should always call the police if necessary for their own safety, they also need to understand not to take such steps lightly. Once that train starts rolling down the tracks, it is not easily stopped. If a case has been initiated, call an experienced domestic violence defense lawyer such as those at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC as soon as possible to give yourself, or your loved one, the best chance at successfully dealing with the case.
What Are the Penalties if You Are Charged with Telephone Obstruction?
Obstruction of telephone or telegraph service in Colorado is considered a class 1 misdemeanor with possible penalties of
- Fines of between $500 to $5,000
- Jail time of between 6 and 18 months
If domestic violence is suspected and there is probable cause, the arresting officer may add other charges. Domestic violence is not its own distinct crime, so an officer may charge the individual with other crimes, including assault, harassment, criminal trespassing, or other charges carrying their own potential penalties.
How a Colorado Springs Criminal Defense Attorney Defends Against a Telephone Obstruction Charge
When someone is charged with obstruction of telephone service in Colorado Springs, the prosecuting attorney must be able to prove every element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the defense attorney’s job to create that doubt. There are many defense options available to criminal defense lawyers and without significant proof of the charges, the prosecution’s case against the individual will not stand. This is when the quality of the defense is critical.
Getting Experienced Legal Assistance
When you have been charged with telephone obstruction in Colorado Springs or El Paso County, it may sound like a minor offense, but it is not. It is a serious criminal offense, particularly if it is in conjunction with domestic violence charges. These offenses carry heavy penalties and can follow you for the rest of your life. You need a skilled defense lawyer who understands the laws, the options available to you, and is ready to diligently fight for your rights. Contact the experienced Colorado Springs criminal defense team at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC for a free consultation to discuss your case and your legal options.
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