Criminal harassment is defined differently by each state. In most states it involves conducting behavior with the intent to alarm, annoy, torment or terrorize. In general, the behavior must cause a credible threat to a person’s safety or that of their family before it rises to the level of harassment.
Accused And/Or Charged With Harassment?
If you are being accused of or charged with criminal harassment in Colorado, the accuser is claiming you intended to harass, annoy or alarm them. The critical component and one that can be challenging to prove is what your intent was at the time of the alleged behavior.
With exception of stalking, harassment is a class 3 misdemeanor; except that harassment can be charged as a class 1 misdemeanor if the harassment is committed with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.
Having a qualified defense attorney, experienced in harassment cases, will help clarify the facts of the case and represent your side of the story in a non-emotional way. The ramifications of a harassment conviction go way beyond a fine and possible jail time. The shadow follows you around long after your penalties have been served.
What is Harassment?
Colorado’s primary harassment law, C.R.S.18-9-111, makes it a criminal offense to engage in a number of different kinds of physical behavior and communications in person, on the phone, and over the Internet. In Colorado, if you do any of the following “with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, you can be charged with criminal harassment:
- Physical contact. It is harassment (and probably battery as well) to strike, shove, kick, or otherwise touch a person or subject him to physical contact; or
- Obscene language or gestures. Directing obscene language or making an obscene gesture to or at another person in a public place can constitute harassment.
- Stalking. As discussed in greater detail below, following a person in or about a public place can get you charged with harassment.
- Phone and online harassment. It is harassment to initiate communication with a person, anonymously or otherwise by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or make any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system that is obscene. Additionally, making a telephone call or causing a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation is harassment, as is making repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property.
- Fighting words. Repeatedly insulting, taunting, challenging, or making communications in offensively coarse language to in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response is harassment.
Stalking is Treated Very Harshly and Will Result in Serious Prison Time
Even though stalking is part of Colorado’s general harassment law, the seriousness of stalking and its tendency to escalate into more violent offenses has caused Colorado’s legislature to treat it much more harshly than other forms of harassment. As the law itself says:
“Because stalking involves highly inappropriate intensity, persistence, and possessiveness, it entails great unpredictability and creates great stress and fear for the victim. Stalking involves severe intrusions on the victim's personal privacy and autonomy, with an immediate and long-lasting impact on quality of life as well as risks to security and safety of the victim and persons close to the victim, even in the absence of express threats of physical harm.”
C.R.S. 18-9-111, 4(a)
A person can be charged and convicted for stalking if that person knowingly:
- makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship; or
- makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or
- repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person's immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress.
Reflective of the seriousness of stalking, a first stalking conviction is a class four felony in Colorado that comes with a potential one to three years in prison and fines from $1,000 – $100,000 for the first offense. That jumps to a class four felony with two to six years in prison and fines from $2,000 to $500,000 for a subsequent offense or if the offense is committed in violation of a protection order.
Any charge of harassment can have a significant impact on your life. It can get you time behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, and a stain on your reputation that can affect your career, your relationships, and your reputation. If you are facing Colorado harassment or stalking charges, it is important that you contact an experienced harassment and stalking defense attorney as soon as possible.
If you are facing a criminal harassment or stalking charge, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call James Newby Law today to request a free consultation at (719) 578-3322.