What are Grounds for Harassment Charges in PA?
When you hear the term “harassment,” many people think of calling someone incessantly or using defamatory words. And while these certainly qualifies under the legal definition of harassment in PA, there are many more types of conduct that constitutes harassment which you may not realize. Or if you are aware and want to learn how to file harassment charges in PA, then you’ve also come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know about criminal harassment penalties and charges for your case.
In Pennsylvania, harassment is either considered a summary offense or a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree, depending on the conduct that occurred. While both classifications are considered minor criminal acts (summary offenses being less serious than a misdemeanor), it certainly does not negate the emotional impact the situation may have on a victim or even the accused.
What are the harassment laws in PA?
The first component of a harassment charge in Pennsylvania is proving that something was said or communicated. While in the past, this was based on verbal communication and phone conversations, today’s use of technology have led many statutes to now cover email, social media sites, texts and other telecommunications as well.
Secondly, the communication must provide evidence of intent to harass, annoy, torment or embarrass the victim. Each state provides examples of what may constitute as harassment under the law. In Pennsylvania, the following are sufficient for a misdemeanor conviction:
- Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose
- Communicating to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures
- Communicating repeatedly in an anonymous manner
- Communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours
While the first example could possibly be graded as a summary offense depending on the extent of the situation, the following are explicit examples of a summary offense:
- Violent striking, hitting or kicking of a person, or threatens to do the same
- Following the other person in or about a public place or places
It’s important to note that this list is not all-inclusive. Threatening physical harm, making obscene proposals, stalking or any unwanted, repeated communication or actions all fall under the PA crimes code for harassment and could result in criminal harassment penalties.
And while some phrases like “I’m going to kill you” or “Do this or else” are used more casually today than they were in the past, they can be interpreted in different ways based on the intent and context of the comment. During a friendly soccer game where no other comments were made is one thing, while in the parking lot during a one-on-one confrontation after the game is another. In either situation, the state would have to present evidence that the comment was meant to harass ror alarm the victim and was likely to do so.
Punishment for harassment in PA
While most summary offenses do not result in jail time, not all misdemeanor charges do do either. However, if the judge finds the behavior particularly hateful or there is an existing criminal record involved, it is possible. Even so, the collateral damage of a charge on your record is more commonly the outcome. They can negatively impact your ability to secure employment, professional certifications, financial aid or legal immigration status.
If you’ve been charged, it’s vital that you speak to our experienced criminal lawyers in Philadelphia to determine and achieve the best possible outcome for you.
How to file harassment charges in PA
The first step is to call your local police, and let them know you would like to file a report for harassment. You can provide them with any text messages, emails or other evidence you may have. Some police departments will allow you to file a report through their website, but you should follow up in-person or over the phone as well.
If you have been a victim of harassment or are on the receiving end of false allegations, it’s imperative to have experienced criminal defense attorneys to help you through the legal process and get you the justice you deserve. Contact us to speak to one of our knowledgeable lawyers about your case today.