Harassment is a type of intimidation or discrimination. It can take place in many ways. For example, the Equal Opportunity Commission defines harassment in employment as unwelcome or unwanted conduct based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy status, national origin, age, disability or genetic profile. Harassment becomes unlawful if it creates an intimidating, hostile or abusive work environment or if it is a condition of employment. Outside of the workplace, it includes systematic or ongoing unwanted and annoying actions performed by a person or group of people. It could be caused by a collection agency, ex-partner or neighbor. If you are facing misdemeanor or felony harassment charges, it is a good idea to seek representation from a criminal defense attorney. Each state has different laws about harassment and a range of penalties if you are convicted.
State Laws About Harassment
In the state of Minnesota, harassment is defined the same way no matter what the relationship is between the person who is accused of the crime and the receiver of the harassment. Under Minnesota law, harassment is defined as a single incident of physical or sexual assault, one time of using someone’s information to invite or encourage a third party for sexual activities, a single time of sharing private photos of a sexual nature, repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words or gestures that affect an individual’s safety, security or privacy, targeted residential picketing and attendance at public events when your presence is harassing to someone else who is there.
Texas law holds that simple teasing or an offhand comment is not harassment. However, Texas law also states that anyone affected by the harassment, such as someone who witnesses it firsthand without being the subject of the harassment, may file a complaint.
Many states include harassment on social media and other online venues to be a part of their misdemeanor and felony criminal statutes. These may be separated from workplace or domestic harassment laws. In South Dakota, the state has cyber-stalking laws that include online harassment. The state defines this to be making credible threats against a person, willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following a person online and repeatedly using any means of verbal, electronic, digital media, mechanical, telegraphic or written communication to willfully and maliciously stalk or harass a person.
Possible Penalties for Harassment
In most states, harassment penalties start with a restraining order. In Maine, a person can be found guilty of harassment even without a restraining order if they have been told by a sheriff, police officer or justice of the peace to leave the victim alone. In Texas, cases of workplace harassment are investigated by the state’s Civil Rights Division and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In places such as South Dakota, a first offense is a misdemeanor, and a second is a felony.
If you are charged with harassment in the workplace, in a domestic situation or any other circumstance, take action to protect your rights. A criminal defense attorney examines several lines of defense for your situation based on the nature of your case. A criminal defense attorney may also be able to negotiate on your behalf.