New phone ordinance may be first of its kind

The Chandler City Council has adopted an ordinance making it a crime to prevent or interfere with the use of a telephone in an emergency situation.

City Attorney Dennis O’Neill drafted the ordinance after discussing the issue with city prosecutors. He said it might be the first ordinance of its kind to specifically address this issue.

Prosecutors have noticed a recurring scenario in which victims , particularly in domestic violence cases, often have the telephone taken away or unplugged as they try to report an act of violence or other crime. This makes it difficult for the victim, but also for police to respond if a call is interrupted before all the information can be taken down by police dispatchers.

The new law makes that interference a misdemeanor guilty of a fine up to $2,500 or a jail sentence of up to six months. Punishment could also include a combination of the two, however, O’Neill says the ordinance will also be used as a tool to move people into counseling before further violence escalates.

The new ordinance will become part of the City Code on Aug. 19.