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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
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Can a person use California Law to fight a crime they say was

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Can a person use California Law to fight a crime they say was committed in Washington state? The person exchanged texts while living in Washington State, and has since moved to California. The texts have stopped, however, they still want to press charges. The crime they say is that a friend had text them texts that were accusing them of bad behavior that they say is not true about them. The texts have never gone public, they are private between the two individuals. Is there even a crime or is it just like bullying in a sense? Hope this situation even makes sense. It was presented to me by a college friend of mine that wants to take the person to court for defamation of character. I do not believe it is a case for that, as it has never gone public. Can you help me in this matter?

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

A person who is charged with a crime in Washington has the ability to argue any applicable law, but it's only persuasive authority. The Washington judge doesn't have to follow the CA law. If conduct is a crime in WA and not CA, that won't be enough to defeat WA charges if that is where a crime occurred.

Defamation of character requires untrue statements made to a third party. If a person makes an untrue statement directly to someone, that can never be the basis for a defamation action, no matter how unflattering or horrible the statements. Defamation is also a civil matter - it's not a crime. But a key element is that the untrue statements are communicated to a third party, so a person cannot sue for defamation based on texts sent directly to him.

The Washington harassment statute prohibits conduct or communications that would place a reasonable person in fear of eminent bodily harm, to himself or another, or threats to a person's mental health. RCW 9A.46.020. The statute specifically includes electronic communications, so texts could fall within that statute, depending on what they said. Harassment is a gross misdemeanor.

If the behavior occurred in Washington, the person could still be charged, even if they have since moved out of state.

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Customer: replied 4 years ago.

One question I have is that the person that received the texts moved to California not the one that wrote the text. Does that make a difference? Also the person that received the text wrote back texts that were worse than the ones received, so could both parties cancel each other out in a stalemate?

If the texts were otherwise actionable, then the fact that the recipient moved wouldn't change the outcome - it would just give the opportunity to press charges in either Washington or California. Technically, if you send me a threatening text when I am in CA, the crime occurred in CA.

But, if this is a situation where two people who don't like each other are bickering and sending nasty texts back and forth, and neither of them is really innocent, no, the police would probably not get involved. Honestly, if the texts sent back were worse, the police could end up pressing charges against the complaining witness instead, depending on what the texts say.

Lucy, Esq. and 6 other Legal Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thank you so much, this really answered my question and gave me the exact words to tell my friend.

You're very welcome and thank you. I'm glad I could help.