For harassment to become a criminal matter, things must progress beyond teasing or just making too many phone calls to someone. If you have been arrested and charged with harassment, know that you could be facing some serious consequences if you are convicted. To learn more about harassment, read on.
Types of Harassment
In most cases, though the law varies by the state, harassment involves targeting certain actions toward a person or business. Almost anyone can be the target though it's usually aimed at a personal relationship. In general, harassment can result in the alleged victim feeling afraid, annoyed, or in fear for their life. Harassment can also be aimed at a building, such as a business, or a vehicle.
Stalking refers to a series of repeated and unwelcome attention. It can be in the form of communication like calls or texts, gifts, following someone, and more. The state must prove that the defendant participated in a series of repeated actions against a single person. If the stalking crosses state lines, it can be elevated to a federal offense.
Cyberstalking is a related offense and is often prosecuted at a federal level because of the way online communications can easily cross state lines. Cyberstalking is about more than just communications, however. Most cyberstalking crimes are related to threats of doing harm to someone.
How Harassment is Prosecuted
In most cases, harassment is charged at the misdemeanor level unless it's bumped to a federal case. If, however, the defendant meets the below parameters, they could be facing felony harassment charges:
- A previous record of harassment convictions
- The crime meets hate crime standards with the harassment being based on someone's race, age, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
- Previous domestic violence or other violent crime convictions on the record
- Harassment after a restraining order was in place
The potential punishment for misdemeanor and felony harassment convictions varies by state and circumstances.
The Reasonable Person Standard
Some alleged victims are more sensitive to actions that may be viewed as harassment. What might be considered a large number of text messages for one person won't always be the same for everyone. Also, some people don't easily accept cases where the alleged perpetrator might have been joking or flirting. However, what the law uses to define what is and what is not harassment is defined as a reasonable person standard. Would a reasonable person agree that the defendant engaged in harassment or not?
To find out more about this sort of charge and what you can do to defend yourself, speak to a criminal defense lawyer in your area.