Is Harassment a Crime And What Are The Penalties For it

Harassment offenses include stalking, hate crimes, and cyber bullying. It occurs when a person acts in a way designed to annoy, threaten, provoke, alarm torment or otherwise cause another person emotional distress. Some state and federal laws identify multiple ways in which harassment can be committed. However, not all petty annoyances constitute harassment; most state laws require that the behavior causes a credible threat or fear to the person´s or family´s safety. If you have been charged with this type of offense and want to know how to avoid jail time, click here.

Anyone accused of harassment needs to know the elements to consider it as a crime and its penalties

  • Many crimes including harassment, require specific intent, this means that the prosecutor must show that the defendant said or did something with the intent to annoy or intimidate the victim.
  • Actions that unintentionally cause distress are not considered harassment.
  • Harassment can be committed through non-verbal and verbal means. A person might use physical gestures to annoy or threaten a victim. A person also may intimidate the victim through a pattern of behavior such as showing up at the victim’s home or workplace. In some states harassment that includes monitoring and following the victim is known as stalking.
  • Harassment also occurs when a person uses and an electronic device such as a computer or phone to communicate threats, most of the time anonymously.

Penalties for harassment

All states recognize both felony and misdemeanor types of harassment. Almost every state punish first-time harassment offenses as misdemeanors, but punish subsequent harassment convictions as felonies. The state of California punishes as misdemeanors harassment threats that are intended to make a victim fear for his or her safety. In addition to fines and jail time, penalties for harassment may include court-ordered psychological counseling. Sentences frequently forbid the defendant from having indirect or direct contact with the victim. Violating this sentence can result in new charges such as revoking the probation or parole of someone convicted of harassment. A misdemeanor offense can result in punishment for one or two years in a county jail depending on the state.

Restraining orders

Harassment can result in civil actions brought by the victim. Someone that feels victimized by harassing behavior might look for a civil restraining order to prevent further harassment. Restraining order usually requires that the accused doesn´t have any contact, direct or indirect with the person seeking for protection. Violation of a civil restraining order can trigger criminal charges including felony charges.

Harassment refers to a variety of behaviors that can violate both civil and criminal laws. Sometimes, laws concerning harassment can be complicated, and the meaning of key parts can depend on how the court have interpreted them. If you are facing harassment charges, it is recommended to consult an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the charges and how the court have interpreted your case. This video explains in detail all the things that you need to know about harassment and some examples of it.