When Is it Considered Criminal Harassment?

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

criminal harassmentHarassment is not an innocent act. Frequent harassment falls on the border of stalking – and often those arrested for criminal harassment are also charged with stalking.

While harassment is a serious crime that can emotionally and mentally torment a victim, those arrested for harassment are not always intentionally causing harm. In fact, these cases often come down to the victim’s word against the word of the accused.

New Mexico is one of the few states to have harassment laws in addition to stalking laws. Under statute Section 30-3A-2, harassment is knowingly pursuing a pattern of conduct specifically done to annoy, terrorize, or alarm a victim for no legal purpose. The person suffers reasonable emotional distress as a result, and the accused could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Stalking and Harassment Charges Often Go Hand in Hand

Harassment and stalking charges typically go hand in hand. If you are arrested for one, you could be accused of both, especially if warranted by your actions. However, both are governed by separate statutes. In fact, stalking falls under New Mexico Statutes Section 30-3A-3.

In the statute, stalking is defined as pattern of conduct that causes a person to feel frightened, intimidated or threatened in any way. Stalking is treated more seriously than harassment because a stalker intends to cause apprehension to their victim by following them, putting them under surveillance, or equivalent  actions.

Stalking can also graduate to the more serious charge of aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking involves the violation of a restraining order, stalking someone who is under 16 years of age, or stalking someone with use of a deadly weapon.

Stalking is a misdemeanor, and the offender will require professional counseling. However, aggravated stalking is enhanced to a 4th-degree felony.

Is Cyberbullying a Form of Harassment?

Harassment and cyberbullying are similar to stalking. Harassment can occur over electronic devices, such as a phone or computer. When a person uses these devices to communicate his or her threats, even if they are anonymous, they could be found guilty of both.

Harassment via email and social networking is quite common, especially amongst high schoolers. Despite the age of these offenders, a teen could still be charged with harassment and cyberbullying.

The new harassment laws for the state also apply to cyberbullying. After two highly publicized teen deaths that occurred from bullying, the state responded to public demand for harsher penalties for such offenses. For a person to be guilty of harassment, their actions must include the following.

  • Directing their bullying at a minor
  • Repeat their acts over and over
  • Create unwanted verbal, physical, or otherwise harmful contact
  • Create a negative impact on the victim’s mental, emotional, and physical well-being

What is the Penalty for Harassment?

While the first offense is charged as a misdemeanor, realize that second offenses for stalking and harassment will increase to a fourth-degree felony.

For the misdemeanor offense, the accused could be required to pay a penalty of up to $1,000, and spend up to one year in jail – or both depending on the circumstances.

Accused of Harassment, Stalking or Bullying? You Need an Attorney.

Some acts might be considered innocent, but the courts do not take harassment, stalking, or any form of cyberbullying lightly. Instead, you could face harsh penalties for these acts. If you have been accused of harassment, but are innocent, or you were playing a teen prank that got out of hand, it is imperative you hire a criminal defense attorney as quickly as possible.

Immediately contact an attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. Our team is here to assist you with your case, and we will aggressively defend you in a stalking, harassment, or bullying offense. Schedule a free case evaluation now at 505-375-4664 or request your appointment online.