What constitutes criminal harassment?

The term “criminal harassment” gets tossed around quite a bit in the media, but true cases of this type of harassment are very serious and allegations should not be made lightly. It’s important to understand what exactly constitutes as criminal harassment, the punishments for such a crime, and how to deal with the problem.

What Constitutes Criminal Harassment?

criminal harassment

Credit: Andrey Popov

According to David Genis, criminal lawyer, criminal harassment is “repeated behavior that is done with an intention of harassing, troubling, frightening or any other actions exhibiting obsessive and fanatical conduct towards another individual without consensus or legal authority.”

The following conduct may fall under criminal harassment:

  • Repeatedly following the other person or persons they know from place to place.
  • Watching the other person’s home, or place where the other person or persons they know resides, carries out business, works or happens to be.
  • Repeatedly communicating with the other person or persons they know.
  • Threatening the other person or any member of his or her family.

Stalking may start out with conduct that is more irritating than dangerous, but when the conduct is repeated, it can become frightening and amount to criminal harassment.

The stalker does not have to realize that their conduct is frightening the victim in order for it to be considered criminal harassment. Stalking can be considered a crime even if there is no physical violence or property damage involved. The law protects the victim’s emotional, psychological and physical safety.

What About Cyberbullying?

Cyberbullying is a type of harassment that uses social media, texting, blogs, instant messaging and other forms of digital communication to engage in conduct intended to embarrass or harm someone. Although their comments are public, cyberbullies are usually anonymous, which makes it harder to identify them and stop their conduct.

Cyberbullying can amount to criminal harassment in some cases. For example, it is illegal to share an intimate image of someone without them giving their consent. A person can be charged with this crime if they knew that the person may not have consented to the share, but they did it anyway.

Additionally, cyberbullying may fall under defamation, although this is rare.

Dealing with the Problem

Criminal harassment is a serious matter that should be reported to the police. Victims should keep detailed records of every incident, including the time, date, place and circumstances of the encounter. They should also keep all letters, voicemail messages, notes, texts, emails, and online posts made by the alleged stalker.

Victims can also seek a court order to protect them from the harasser.

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