Domestic Violence: Harassment

Harassment is when a person does something repeatedly and it leaves someone else in emotional distress or believing they are in danger. Harassment can mean real threats or actual physical contact with another person, but it can also include simple text messages or phone calls. Police reports about harassment charges don’t always give an accurate depiction of what happened, because these kinds of cases are generally more complicated than they seem to be. Unfortunately for defendants, prosecutors have probably already made up their minds as to guilt or innocence, and are prepared with strong opposition to the defendants.

Harassment Definition

Harassment statutes can be found in the Pennsylvania Code, Section 2709. They describe two separate crimes: cyber harassment of a child, and harassment.

Harassment

According to the law, harassment is committed by a person when they do things intended to annoy, harass, or alarm another person. The following acts are considered to be harassment:

  • Repeated anonymous communications
  • Repeated communications at hours that are extremely inconvenient
  • Communication with another person that involves obscene or threatening words, language, drawings, or caricatures, or in a lascivious or lewd manner
  • Following a person around in public
  • Subjecting someone to physical contact such as kicking, striking, or shoving, including attempting to do so or threatening to do so
  • Repeatedly committing acts that serve no purpose, or engaging in a course of conduct
Cyber Harassment of a Child

The victim of this crime is always a child. It happens when someone uses electronic means or social media in the following ways, with the intent to alarm, annoy, or harass the child:

  • Threaten to inflict harm
  • Give a “seriously disparaging statement or opinion” about the child’s physical or mental health condition, sexuality, physical characteristics, or sexual activity
Harassment Penalties in Pennsylvania

Harassment can be charged as anything from a summary offense to a third-degree misdemeanor. A summary offense comes with up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300. A third-degree misdemeanor comes with up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. If the defendant has violated a PFA order in the commission of the harassment charge, or if he or she has continued to harass the same victim or that victim’s family, the punishment assigned will be one grade higher. The severity will depend on the specific conditions of the incident. Some acts are considered to be summary offenses, and others are considered misdemeanors.

Harassment Examples

The following is a list of different acts that can cause a person to be charged with harassment:

  • Making contact with a person, intending to harm them
  • Making repeated attempts to contact a person
  • Using the internet to send disparaging or sexual comments to a minor
  • Sending lewd jokes, pictures, and comments to a person
  • Threatening a minor over the internet
  • Making repeated threats to a person
  • Following a person around in public
  • Trying to contact a person late at night or at other inconvenient times

The most important thing a prosecutor must prove is intent. Did the defendant intend to harm the victim?

Defending Against Harassment Charges

Harassment charges are a lot like stalking charges, but the penalties are lower. However, it’s much easier for prosecutors to come up with a case against a defendant in a harassment case. Proving harassment relies heavily on the intent of the action. In court, a prosecutor will try to prove that the defendant intended to make his or her victim feel harassed or in danger. The prosecutor will use the defendant’s words in messages and phone calls against him or her. Often, victims will make statements that will also be used against a defendant in court.

The most important thing in a defense of harassment charges is to make sure both sides of the event are heard, and that means getting the defendant on the stand to explain their view of what happened. Prosecutors will try to prove the defendant wrong, but a good defense attorney will make sure his client is heard.

Being charged with harassment can be a hard thing to go through. Often, prosecutors and juries feel that a person is guilty based on nothing more than the nature of the charge. An experienced and dedicated criminal defense attorney can help.

If you or a loved one has been charged with harassment, you need a lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the court system and who is not afraid to do what is needed to win your case. Sean Logue and his associates at Logue Law have the experience, strength, and understanding you need. Give them a call at 1-844-PITT-DUI or 412-389-0805, or online here. Initial consultations are free. Logue Law serves Pittsburgh, PA, as well as West Virginia and Ohio.

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