What is Considered Harassment?
Your boyfriend just broke up with you and refuses to speak with you. You just can’t take it anymore. You tried calling him again and again but he just won’t answer the phone. You even showed up at his house, hoping for an explanation. But what started as a request for an explanation quickly escalated into something more. He’s now threatening to press harassment charges against you. What does that mean? Are you committing a crime?
First things first — let’s give you the legal definition of harassment. According to New Jersey statute, a person is guilty of harassing someone if he/she has done one or all of the following:
- Communicates with the victim at extremely inconvenient hours (like calling you at 3 in the morning), uses offensive language, or does anything else that can cause alarm or annoyance
- Subjects another person to either threaten or act out in a threatening manner, such as striking, kicking or shoving
- Engages in any other alarming conduct with a purpose to either alarm or annoy someone. This conduct can be a single incident or can be done repeatedly.
Nine times out of ten, a harassment charge is considered a petty disorderly persons offense. Handled in municipal court, the punishment is 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. But there are times when harassment charges can become a fourth-degree crime, making it an indictable offense. There are two situations when this occurs:
- The defendant attempted to intimidate a person or a group based on their race, color, religion, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity
- At the time of the incident, the defendant was either serving a term of imprisonment or on parole or probation as a result of committing an indictable offense
It’s important to note that in order to be charged with this crime, the victim needs to prove that your actions bother him/her to a considerable degree. For example, let’s say a co-worker has been shouting obscenities at you after you mess up a big presentation. This may not be considered harassment. However, your co-worker won’t let the incident go and the tirade escalates. He sends you nasty emails. He threatens physical violence. His actions are beginning to affect your work and causing you stress. Now you can press charges.
So if you are brought up on harassment charges, is there anything you can do? Your best course of action is to get an experienced criminal defense attorney who can assist you with your case. Contact the Law Offices of Anthony Carbone today for a free consultation.