Austin Criminal Harassment Lawyer

Criminal harassment involves intentional actions to disturb, frighten, or upset another person, often through various forms of communication. A criminal harassment conviction can lead to significant legal consequences, including jail time and fines. Our team of Austin criminal harassment attorneys can explain the nature of criminal harassment, the laws in Texas that define it, the potential impacts of being charged with this offense, and why it makes sense to retain a criminal defense lawyer immediately if you have been charged.

Choose Experienced Harassment Attorneys in Austin

When you find yourself facing criminal harassment charges, it becomes vital to have a skilled attorney by your side. Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, possesses substantial experience in handling these cases for clients within the state of Texas. We are prepared to offer you the legal guidance and support you rightly deserve. To schedule a consultation with a criminal harassment lawyer, reach out to Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, either by dialing (512) 991-0576 or contacting us online.

What is Criminal Harassment?

Under Texas Statutes Section 42.07, to be considered harassment, your actions must be with the intent to harass, alarm, abuse, annoy, embarrass, or torment another person. It's not just about what you do, but also why you do it. The law outlines various ways in which you might commit harassment:

  • Obscene Communication: If you start a conversation with someone and make obscene comments or suggestions, it's considered harassment. What counts as 'obscene' isn't just about bad language but includes offensive descriptions or requests related to sexual acts or bodily functions.
  • Threats of Harm: Making threats that could seriously scare the person you're talking to can be harassment. This isn't limited to threatening to hurt them physically. It also covers threats to commit any felony against them, their family, or their property.
  • False Reports of Serious Incidents: Telling someone, in a way that would naturally alarm them, that another person has been seriously hurt or killed, knowing that this is a lie, is also harassment.
  • Repeated or Anonymous Calls: If you keep calling someone over and over, or make repeated calls without revealing your identity, with the intention to upset or disturb them, it's harassment. This also includes just letting the phone ring repeatedly without any genuine reason.
  • Allowing Misuse of Your Phone: If you knowingly let someone else use your phone to harass someone, you're also responsible.
  • Repeated Electronic Communications: Sending numerous electronic messages, like texts or emails, especially if they're meant to upset or disturb the recipient, is considered harassment.
  • Repeated Online Posts: If you keep posting things about someone online, like on social media, in a way that's likely to cause them significant distress or upset, it's harassment.

Penalties for Criminal Harassment

In Texas, the penalties for criminal harassment depend on the specific actions involved and any prior convictions. Under Texas law, harassment is generally considered a Class B misdemeanor. This classification includes actions like making obscene suggestions, threatening bodily harm, conveying false reports of injury or death, making repeated phone calls or electronic communications to annoy or alarm, and publishing certain electronic communications online.

As a Class B misdemeanor, the standard penalty for harassment includes up to 180 days in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. However, the offense escalates to a Class A misdemeanor under certain conditions. This escalation occurs if you have a prior conviction or if the harassment involves repeated electronic communications that target a child under 18 years of age, with the intent of causing the child to commit suicide or engage in self-harm. A Class A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to 1 year in jail and a fine of up to $4,000.

Alternatives to incarceration for a harassment conviction may include probation, community service, counseling, or rehabilitation programs. These alternatives aim to address the underlying issues that led to the offense and prevent future incidents. The availability of those alternatives will depend on the circumstances of the case and the discretion of the court.

Also keep in mind that the penalties can be more severe if there are aggravating factors or if the harassment falls under a different criminal category, such as stalking or a hate crime, which carry their own specific penalties.

Potential Defenses to Criminal Harassment Charges

If you're charged with criminal harassment in Texas, several defenses might be relevant to your case. The key factor in harassment charges is intent – the law requires that the accused intend to harass, alarm, abuse, annoy, embarrass, or torment another person. Therefore, one potential defense is lack of intent. If you can show that your actions weren't intended to cause these reactions, this might be a valid defense.

Another defense could be the truthfulness of the communication, especially in cases where the charge is based on conveying a false report known to be false. If the communication was true, it might not constitute harassment under the law.

Mistake of fact is another possible defense. If you genuinely believed the information you conveyed was true or your actions were otherwise justified, this could be a defense. For example, repeated calls or messages might be justified if you believed they were necessary for some legitimate purpose.

Freedom of speech considerations might also come into play, particularly in cases involving electronic communications published online. If your communications were made in connection with a matter of public concern, they might be protected under your first amendment rights.

In cases where a restraining order or injunction is involved, showing that you were not aware of those orders, or that you did not intentionally violate them, can be a defense.

Role of a Criminal Harassment Lawyer in Austin

If you're charged with criminal harassment, a lawyer plays an important role in your defense. Your lawyer will first thoroughly review the details of your case, including the allegations and the evidence against you. They will then identify the most appropriate defenses based on the specifics of your case.

Your lawyer will also guide you through the legal process, from arraignments to hearings, and if necessary, to trial. They will negotiate with prosecutors, potentially securing a plea deal or seeking reduced charges. If your case goes to trial, your lawyer will represent you in court, arguing your case before a judge or jury. Their knowledge of the law is essential in ensuring your rights are protected throughout the process.

Frequently Asked Questions About Criminal Harassment

What is considered criminal harassment in Texas?
Criminal harassment in Texas includes actions intended to harass or alarm another person, like obscene communication, threats of harm, or repeated unwanted calls and messages.

Can I be charged for a single offensive message?
Usually, criminal harassment involves repeated actions. However, a single message could be considered harassment if it's extremely offensive or threatening.

What are the penalties for criminal harassment?
It's usually a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. It can become a Class A misdemeanor in certain circumstances.

Is online harassment considered criminal harassment?
Yes, repeated offensive or threatening online communications can constitute criminal harassment.

What if I didn't know my actions were considered harassment?
Lack of knowledge isn't a defense if your actions meet the legal definition of harassment. However, intent is a key factor in these charges.

Can I be charged if the person didn't tell me to stop contacting them?
Yes, you can be charged even if the other person didn't explicitly ask you to stop.

Does it matter if my message was a joke?
The court will consider the content and context of the message. Even if intended as a joke, it can be harassment if it meets the legal criteria.

Are there different penalties for harassing minors?
Yes, penalties can be more severe if the harassment involves a minor, especially with intent to cause harm.

Can I face harassment charges for something said about politics?
Communications made in connection with matters of public concern are typically not considered harassment.

What should I do if I'm accused of criminal harassment?
It's important to consult with a lawyer who can advise you based on the specifics of your case.

Contact Our Austin Criminal Harassment Attorneys Today

If you're facing criminal harassment charges, it's important to have a knowledgeable attorney on your side. At Cofer & Connelly, PLLC, we have significant experience managing these cases for clients in the state and are ready to provide you with the legal guidance and support that you deserve. You can contact Cofer & Connelly, PLLC by calling (512) 991-0576 or contacting us online for a consultation with a criminal harassment lawyer. Don't take on this challenging time alone; let us help you make the most of your rights and options.

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