In Washington State, it is a crime to get in the way of someone who is trying to report domestic violence, at least in certain situations.

It is easy enough to imagine cases where stopping somebody from calling the police about domestic violence should be okay, such as blocking a friend’s April Fools’ Day prank.

More seriously, after a jury finds a person not guilty of domestic violence, it may suddenly make more sense if they believed a report was the wrong thing to do.

What the law prohibits

Under Washington law, you commit the crime of interfering with a domestic violence report if you:

  • Commit the violence in question
  • Prevent or try to prevent the victim of the violence or a witness to it from calling 911, getting medical help or reporting it to any law enforcement official

The crime of interference is a “gross misdemeanor,” meaning potentially 364 days in county jail and/or $5,000.

Usually breaking this law is itself domestic violence

All the crimes of domestic violence in Washington would be crimes no matter who committed them or who their victims were. But like many other states, Washington defines domestic violence as another crime but committed between people having certain kinds of relationships.

When a crime is committed, for example, by one family member against another, that can mean a domestic violence charge. Burglary is always a crime. If the victim is the former spouse of the suspect, it is also domestic violence.

Trying to interfere with a report of domestic violence is probably an exception since it is not also a crime in other contexts. However, its statistics on domestic violence suggest the state has good reason to deter family members or intimate partners from keeping one another from talking to the police.