In Virginia, harassment is a crime. But what exactly does harassment mean in that context? While the word has an accepted dictionary definition, it has a different one in the eyes of the law. So what behaviors constitute harassment, and what are the penalties on conviction?
Virginia Harassment Laws
According to the Office of the Attorney General, harassment is the crime of repeatedly attacking or annoying a person or group in a way that causes the victim anxiety or fear for their safety. Note the word “repeatedly,” as harassment involves a pattern of behavior instead of a single act.
Here are some specific actions that can trigger a charge of harassment in Virginia:
- Publishing someone’s private information without their consent – It is illegal in Virginia to publish someone’s name, picture, or other identifying information with the intent to harass, intimidate, or coerce the victim. This includes publishing someone’s address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, or credit card number.
- Distributing someone else’s nude photographs – The Code of Virginia states it is illegal to transmit or sell naked pictures of someone with the intent to harass.
- Prank phone calls – Under state law, it is illegal to use obscene, vulgar, or profane language on the phone to intimidate, harass, or coerce someone. The same goes for using the phone to threaten someone with an illegal or immoral act. This law also applies to text messages, not just phone calls.
- Electronic harassment – Virginia law says it is illegal to use a computer to threaten, coerce, intimidate, or otherwise harass someone through.
Penalties for Harassment in Virginia
The penalties for harassment in Virginia depend on the particular law alleged to have been violated. Some types of harassment are Class 3 misdemeanors, the penalty for which is a fine of up to $500. Other forms of harassment are Class 1 misdemeanors, which could result in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Finally, publishing a law enforcement officer’s private information with the intent to harass is a Class 6 felony. In Virginia, penalties for Class 6 felonies include up to five years in prison, and the minimum sentence for this type of harassment is six months incarceration.
How Our Virginia Harassment Defense Lawyers Can Help You
Don’t attempt to defend yourself from harassment charges alone. There’s too much at stake to go without proper legal counsel. Here’s how our Fairfax harassment defense attorneys can help you:
- Applying Our In-Depth Understanding of Virginia Laws: A criminal defense attorney knows Virginia’s harassment statutes and the prosecution’s burden of proof. Working with an experienced lawyer means you have someone who knows the ins and outs of the law.
- Evaluating the Strength of the Evidence: Attorneys can critically examine the evidence presented against you, scrutinizing its legitimacy and relevance. They can identify weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, which can be crucial in your defense.
- Crafting a Robust Defense Strategy: A defense attorney can apply what they’ve learned by evaluating the evidence to strategize the best approach for your situation. Depending on the circumstances, that could mean negotiating a plea deal or going to trial.
- Protecting Your Rights: From shielding you from unlawful interrogations to objecting to prosecutorial overreach, a defense attorney safeguards your rights.
Leveraging the knowledge and experience of a criminal defense attorney can be the difference between serious penalties and a favorable outcome in a Virginia harassment case. At Whitestone Young, P.C., we pride ourselves on the robust, aggressive representation we offer our clients. Find out what we can do for you when you call (703) 591-0200 or complete our contact form for a free case review.