Harassment

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Harassment

“Harassment” refers to a large number of behaviors liable to both criminal sanctions and civil liability. On the criminal front, states have a wide variety of criminal laws prohibiting harassment in many forms, including crimes of general harassment as well as specific forms of harassment, such as stalking and cyberstalking.

Criminal Harassment Versus Civil Harassment

Criminal harassment should not be confused with the way in which “harassment” is often used in contexts such as lawsuits for discrimination in the workplace. Federal and state laws prohibit discrimination against certain types of people in certain situations, such as at work or in housing decisions. In these non-criminal contexts, the victim can sue the harasser in a private civil lawsuit, alleging that the harassment constitutes discrimination.

On the other hand, criminal harassment is generally limited to state law. Generally, stalking involves intentionally targeting someone else with behavior intended to alarm, annoy, torment, or terrorize them. Not all petty annoyances constitute harassment. Instead, most state laws require this behavior to pose a credible threat to the safety of the individual or their family.

Although state laws on harassment vary, they often take into account different levels and methods of harassment. Separate criminal laws or general harassment law may list various ways to communicate harassment, including phone calls, emails, and other forms of communication. The question of whether there was a legitimate reason for disclosure becomes a factor under the laws of many states on harassment.

Charges of harassment can range from an offense to a serious crime. In many states, accused persons of harassment will receive a higher level charge if they have already been convicted of harassment, threatening or domestic violence. Harassment by a person in violation of a prohibition order can also result in a higher-level charge. Some states increase fees if the harassment was directed at a person because of their race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or his sexual orientation.

Some Forms of Harassment

Stalking And Menacing

In some states, “criminal harassment” is specified as an offense separate from harassment. Other states include both harassment and harassment under one general law. Harassment generally refers to a clear pattern of conduct through which the perpetrator makes the victim reasonably fearful for their safety or that of their family.

Interstate stalking is a federal crime

Some states punish stalking as a form of “threat”. Threats can often include ongoing actions, such as stalking, that cause reasonable fear in the victim.The threat also often includes unique acts that purposely aim to create reasonable fear in someone, such as wielding a weapon.

The question of whether and how states establish boundaries between harassment, threat and stalking varies considerably.

Cyberstalking

Some states have enacted specific laws against harassment of someone online. “Cyber ​​harassment” generally refers to harassment of someone via the Internet, email, text or any other electronic means of communication. Many states have revised their harassment and / or harassment laws to explicitly include harassment of electronic communications. Some states also punish actions akin to cyberbullying under laws aimed at the misuse of computers or electronic communications networks.

Federal law makes it an offense to “transmit in interstate commerce” (which includes the Internet) a communication containing a threat of kidnapping or physical harm to someone.

Harassment And Restraining Orders

While prosecutors can charge a person with criminal harassment, victims of abuse or harassment can also ask the court for a protection order or restraining order to ban someone from engaging in harassing behaviors.

Harassment orders and restraining orders often come into play in situations of family violence.

These orders emanate from civil courts, but the violation of these orders may constitute a separate criminal offense and / or contempt of civil court. A breach of a protection order can also increase the severity of a charge of harassment, stalking or threats.

Conclusion

Harassment refers to a wide variety of behaviors that can violate civil and criminal laws.What constitutes stalking varies by state, but it generally involves targeting someone else with behavior intended to alarm, annoy, torment, or terrorize, and to create reasonable fear in the victim for their safety or that of their family.

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