When words can be criminal: Harassment defense in New York

When words can be criminal: Harassment defense in New York

Most of us know someone who annoys or bothers us. Sometimes they are a former romantic partner, other times they can be a family member, ex-friend, or one-time colleague. On occasion it’s a party we have no personal or professional association with.

What can we do about someone like this?  As long as their actions are not threatening or alarming, most of us would just ignore them. Unfortunately, others choose to file harassment charges against people who not only had no intention of harassing them, but also had a legitimate reason to contact them.

The crime of harassment explained

In New York, criminal harassment occurs when an individual intentionally strives to alarm, annoy, or harass another person. It may be done in person, or via virtual actions such as cyberstalking. New York State harassment crimes include:

  • Harassment in the second degree: engaging in conduct intended to annoy or alarm another person, such as making physical contact and following them around. It is a violation punishable by 15 days in jail.
  • Harassment in the first degree: intentionally harassing someone by following them or making them fear physical injury. This offense is a Class B misdemeanor that can send you to jail for up to three months as well as subject you to a $500 fine.
  • Aggravated harassment in the second degree: covers a range of actions intended to harass another person. Conduct includes assault and unwanted direct or anonymous communications. You can also be charged if you commit an act of harassment in the first degree within 10 years of being convicted of the same crime. Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor that could carry a one-year jail sentence and $1,000 fine.
  • Aggravated harassment in the first degree: the highest level harassment offense. It includes harassment activity based on a person or group’s protected status, such as race, gender, and sexual orientation. It is a Class E felony that can result in a four-year prison sentence and $5,000 fine.

Harassment is a serious offense. If convicted, you could face high fines, restrictive probation, and even years of incarceration. Such charges should be faced with guidance and support from an experienced New York criminal defense attorney who can fight for your rights and work to prevent unfounded allegations from damaging your future. Julie Rendelman has more than 20 years of legal experience both as a prosecutor in the Kings County (Brooklyn) District Attorney’s Office and as a criminal defense attorney. If you have been charged with harassment or are concerned that you may be, you should contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. Do not issue a statement to investigators or the police. Call 212-951-1232 for a free consultation with Ms. Rendelman or visit www.RendelmanLaw.com to learn more.