Have you been charged with the nebulous crime of harassment in Arizona? This is a complex term referring to a number of different kinds of crimes, some of which are simple to prove, and some of which are not. According to A.R.S. 13-2921, harassment is based largely on intent to cause harm or distress to another person, and can lead to the more serious charge of aggravated harassment.
What Is Harassment?
Harassment is defined in several different ways. These include:
- Contacting, whether as an anonymous or known individual, a victim in a way that harasses him or her. This can be communicated verbally, electronically, mechanically, telegraphically, telephonically, or in writing.
- Continuing to follow another person in or near a public place for no legitimate reason, even after being asked to leave.
- Repeatedly committing an act to harass another person.
- Keeping a person under surveillance, or asking another party to keep a person under surveillance, for no legitimate reason.
- Making a false report to law enforcement, social services, or a credit agency.
- Interfering with delivery of any public or regulated utility to another person.
These forms of harassment are classified as class 1 misdemeanor offenses, but more severe charges may also apply. Harassment can also include:
- Committing a harassing action against a public officer of employee. If the person intending to harass files a nonconsensual lien unaccompanied by official court judgment or other documentation that may restrict real property, this constitutes harassment.
To summarize: harassment may result from an individual trying to get “revenge” on a law enforcement officer. Harassment against a public officer or employee is classified as a class 6 or class 5 felony.
The definition of harassment does not include otherwise lawful demonstrations, picketing, or assemblies of people. Rather, it is solely defined as conduct directed at a specific individual that would cause any reasonable individual to be alarmed or annoyed, or that which actively alarms or annoys the individual.
Consequences of Harassment
In the case of a class 5 felony, punishment can include up to 1 year in jail, or between 6 months and 2.5 years in prison. These consequences are increased if the convicted party has one or more previous convictions of harassment against a governmental official.
If the harassment takes place against a non-governmental official, resulting in a class 1 misdemeanor, a convicted individual may face up to 6 months in jail, 3 years of probation (potentially including classes, counseling, or both), and a fine of up to $2,500.
Defending Against Harassment Charges
There are a number of potential defenses for harassment charges. For example, if the defendant has assembled a lawful demonstration or constitutionally picketed activity, he or she is exercising his or her right to the first amendment in a public, political arena. This is a perfectly legal activity and does not constitute harassment.
Many harassment cases arise in domestic squabbles. The accused may have caused unintentional harm to the accuser. If the accuser perceives a threat or feels emotionally harmed, he or she may press charges even if the effects of these actions were unintentional. Harassment charges may also be filed if one spouse wants to undermine the other’s potential for custody in divorce cases.
What to Do
If you’ve been arrested for harassment, you may have been falsely accused. Don’t attempt to defend yourself, however; hire an attorney who knows how to navigate all sides of the system. At the Law Offices of Scott David Stewart, you’ll work with Attorney Scott Stewart, a Phoenix harassment attorney experienced on the prosecutorial side of the law, allowing you to gain leverage and prove your innocence.