The law recognizes that people deserve to live in peace without the fear of being tormented, annoyed, or bothered to the point that it negatively affects their lives. In Virginia, it is illegal to engage in harassment of another person. But what conduct constitutes criminal harassment? Read on to learn more from the Fairfax criminal defense lawyers of Whitestone Young, PC.
What Is Criminal Harassment?
Harassment is generally defined as repeated actions or behavior that is intended to annoy, offend, or intimidate the target of the harassment, cause them anxiety, or put them in fear of harm or future violence.
Types of Harassment
Virginia criminal law prohibits multiple different types of harassment, including:
- Phone harassment – A wide range of behaviors can constitute phone harassment, from repeated calls with no other purpose to making lewd comments over the phone to making repeated prank calls. Phone Calling 911 or emergency services with the intent to provoke a response that will annoy or alarm the intended victim is also a form of phone harassment.
- Computer harassment – Computer harassment involves using a computer network to send offensive, profane, lewd, or obscene communications or materials to a victim with the intent to alarm, annoy, or intimidate the victim.
- Obscene harassment – Using indecent, profane, or threatening language over public airways or other communications methods for the purpose of annoying or alarming the victim is termed obscene harassment.
- Threat harassment – Threat harassment involves making threats of bodily harm or death to a victim by any method, whether verbally, written, or otherwise.
- Intrusion of privacy – Using a person’s identity or identifying information (such as their name, address, or photo) with the intent to annoy, alarm, coerce, or intimidate that person constitutes an intrusion of privacy. Another common type of privacy intrusion is the distribution of nude or intimate photos or video of a victim without their consent.
Penalties for a Criminal Harassment Conviction
Criminal harassment is often graded as a misdemeanor offense. However, under certain circumstances, a harassment offense may be charged as a felony, usually depending on factors such as the nature of the harassing behavior, the target of the harassment, and how long the harassment had been going on. When harassment is charged as a misdemeanor, potential penalties may include:
- Class 3 misdemeanor (can be charged for phone harassment): Fine of up to $500
- Class 2 misdemeanor (also can be charged for phone harassment): Up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000
- Class 1 misdemeanor (can be charged for all types of harassment): Up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500
Threat harassment and privacy harassment can also be charged as felony offenses, depending on the circumstances. Penalties for a felony harassment conviction include:
- Class 6 felony: One to five years in prison, or, if downgraded to a misdemeanor, up to 12 months in jail
- Class 5 felony: One to 10 years in prison, or up to 12 months in jail if the charge is downgraded to a misdemeanor offense
How We Can Help When You’ve Been Charged with Criminal Harassment
If you are facing a charge of criminal harassment in Virginia, the criminal defense attorneys at Whitestone Young, PC may be able to help by:
- Conducting our own investigation of your charges to recover all helpful evidence
- Preparing a unique defense strategy tailored to the facts of your case as well as your needs and goals
- Challenging the prosecution’s evidence and case to seek a reduction or dismissal of your charges if possible
- Pursuing alternatives to prison, if eligible, and fighting for the best possible result in your case, whether by negotiating a plea agreement or by advocating on your behalf at trial
Don’t leave you future to chance when up against the criminal justice system. Contact Whitestone Young, PC for a confidential consultation with a tough, compassionate Fairfax, VA criminal defense attorney.