Colorado prosecutors often search for criminal charges they can file that will yield maximum penalties for defendants. Sometimes they struggle to link an individual’s specific conduct to any particularized wrongdoing.
Wouldn’t it be nice for them – even if arguably objectionable – if they could simply apply some generalized and embracing charge to prosecute a person when they really can’t come up with anything specific?
Actually, the ability to do so is already at their disposal. A harassment charge can often corral a defendant even in the absence of hard proofs for a jury to consider.
Why harassment can be a go-to charge for prosecutors
Harassment charges are routinely filed in legions of courts spanning the country. One in-depth legal overview of criminal harassment duly notes that prosecutors “love this crime, because they can charge harassment … when they don’t like you but have no idea what to do with you.”
Consider this: A criminal harassment charge can be filed against a person who bumps into another on a sidewalk. Ditto that for an individual who walks by another person in a library. Or who repeatedly boards the same bus that an objecting party rides each day. Or who makes demeaning comments to a foe on an athletic field.
The bottom line: A certain lack of clarity and vagueness sometimes attaches to a harassment charge, which can raise legal issues centered around proof requirements and fairness in criminal outcomes.
The centerpiece proof requirement in a harassment case
Proof of intent to commit criminal wrongdoing is the key determinant in a harassment case. An article on Colorado’s harassment laws stresses that a charged crime “only takes place if there is an intent to annoy, harasses or alarm” a purposefully targeted individual
Murkiness sometimes attaches to that requirement. Troublesome questions can pop up.
Did the defendant really mean to elicit fear? Was his or presence in a public place evidence of a stalking pattern or purely random? Was a shove committed with bad intent or because the accused was actually responding to a legitimate fear of personal harm?
The above-cited overview underscores that some harassment suspects feel that they are “just as much a victim as anything else.”
Obviously, the facts reasonably establishing “what actually happened” in any given harassment case are vitally important. A proven criminal defense legal team can help sort them out and ensure that fundamental fairness is accorded an accused party.