March 27, 2023

You can be arrested for calling 911

Calling 911 is for emergencies, but we’ve all probably heard stories of people who have called the number for minor problems. In Washington State anytime police are called to a domestic violence call, if they are able to determine the primary aggressor (from the officer’s perspective) then police will arrest the primary aggressor and take them to the County Jail where they will remain most often until they see a Judge who will very frequently impose a no contact order. I have personally represented individuals arrested for domestic violence when the original 911 caller did not claim any domestic violence. Other examples that should make you think before dialing 911 for non-emergency problems are outlined below.

What you may not know is that if you call 911 for non-emergency situations you could be arrested and possibly fined or jailed for misusing the service.

For instance, this PC World article iPhone User Calls 911 5 Times to Report Broken Phone talks about a man who was arrested in Illinois after repeatedly calling 911 to get help with his broken iPhone. The local sheriff’s office traced the call to the man’s home and found him intoxicated and hostile toward police. He was then arrested for “obstructing/resisting a police officer.”

Another man in Arizona was arrested for making too many false 911 calls, according to this article, Arizona man arrested for allegedly calling 911 too many times. The man, who had a history of making more than a dozen 911 calls, called police several times falsely claiming someone broke into his house. After police came to his home a couple of times and found no evidence of a break-in, they arrested him on “suspicion of harassment of 911 dispatchers and false reporting to law enforcement.”

In Florida, a woman was arrested for tying up 911 dispatcher time. An article Woman arrested for calling 911 to complain about manicure, says she was arrested for making several calls while arguing with her nail tech. The woman called 911 four times and was arrested for “misuse of the wireless 911 system.”

911 is a valuable emergency service and authorities do take it seriously when it is misused. Time dealing with non-emergencies is time taken away from people who actually need help.

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