One purpose of Texas laws is to help maintain public peace and order by making criminal or violent behavior punishable. For example, Texas law criminalizes certain types of harassment. Texas also recognizes civil harassment. If you are charged with criminal harassment, you face a criminal conviction and penalties, including jail time. Understanding the difference between these types of harassment can be challenging.
The Definition of Harassment in Texas
Under Texas law, criminal harassment occurs when “an act meant to annoy, torment, embarrass, abuse, alarm, or harass another person.” On the other hand, civil harassment is any action that causes “an injury to a person based on their protected status,” such as disability, sex, or religion. The prosecution must prove several elements beyond a reasonable doubt before a prosecutor can secure a conviction. Specifically, the prosecutor must prove that the harassment is causing the victim fear of bodily injury. Various actions can be considered criminal harassment in Texas, such as:
Threatening someone with physical harm
Threatening to commit a felony against a person, their property, and/or their family members
Falsely reporting that another person has suffered severe bodily injury or death
Requesting that someone engage in an obscene activity, such as a sexual act
Calling someone repeatedly on the phone in a manner that is annoying, including calls when the harasser will not hang up, even if they are silent
Sending electronic communications, such as emails, text messages, or other electronic messages in an abusive, threatening, or annoying manner
The Prosecutor Must Prove Intent to Harm
Criminal harassment must be done in a way that’s likely to cause alarm to the person who is receiving the harassment or communication. For example, a telemarketer making cold calls to try to sell a product cannot be charged with criminal harassment. The telemarketer does not intend to cause the person on the other line any alarm or fear. On the other hand, if an ex-spouse or ex-partner continues to call and makes threats, he or she intends to cause harm or fear.
The Penalties for Harassment in Texas
Criminal harassment carries severe penalties in Texas, even if this is your first time being charged. A defendant convicted of first-time harassment faces a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $2,000. A defendant convicted of harassment for the second time faces Class A misdemeanor charges that carry a jail sentence of up to one year.
The defendant could be required to pay a fine of up to $4,000 as well. Those convicted of criminal harassment can be served with a restraining order, meaning they cannot contact the person named in the order. If the defendants violated the restraining order, he or she would face even more significant penalties.
Charged with Harassment? We Can Help
Criminal harassment is a serious charge in Texas, requiring a serious and dedicated lawyer. Our experienced Flower Mound criminal defense lawyers can help you mount a legal defense at Abel Law Firm. Contact us today to schedule your free initial consultation.