Some relationships do not work out. Ideally, the two people involved can be civil about the split and move on. However, the reality of the situation may be quite different and much more confusing. It could be a situation where the relationship or acquaintance becomes toxic, and one person or both act irrationally or dangerously. It becomes a true threat, which can be defined from a subjective or objective perspective as a physical or emotional danger to one or both individuals (or groups).
Harassment often occurs these days when people are not face to face. Instead, it is done via text, message apps, computer platforms, or phone. It qualifies as harassment when someone repeatedly insults someone else in a way that generally would provoke a strong or disorderly response. It may also include the following actions:
- Shoving, striking or touching someone without their permission
- Following someone in a public space
- Obscene gestures or language directed toward someone in a public place
It only crosses the line when the intent is to harass, annoy and alarm someone. It becomes a class 3 misdemeanor in many situations, which involves not more than six months in jail and a fine of up to $750. it could be escalated to class 1 if the attack violates a protection order or involves a person’s race, religion, ethnicity or nation of origin. The penalty can be up to two years in prison and $5,000.
How is stalking different?
Stalking is a more serious criminal charge. It occurs when a person repeatedly and purposely harasses another person. The behaviors can include:
- Cyberstalking via email, internet, or chatrooms
- Using electronic devices that invade a person’s privacy
- Constantly calling someone, even if the caller hangs up
- Showing up at a person’s workplace, home, or school
Generally, these actions are considered to see if the defendant is a credible threat. If there is a credible threat, the stalking charges will apply. In many cases, a first-time charge involves a class 5 felony, which can include one to four years in prison, fines up to $100,000, and mandatory parole for two years. It becomes a class 4 felony if it violates a restraining order, which means the penalties involve two to eight years in jail, up to $500,000 in fines and three years mandatory parole.
Defendants still have rights
These issues are complex and must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. It may involve a misunderstanding or an instance of mistaken identity. Whatever the circumstance, an experienced criminal law attorney can help protect defendants using all applicable laws.