Harassment in New York
Knowing when the theory of “sticks and stones” turns into harassment is tough to determine in the State of New York. There is always a classic case of a physical, or verbal altercation that we have all been involved in or a situation we have witnessed.
Perhaps, a situation simply spirals, and before we know it, we have lost control over it, and the authorities are called. Here are some situations:
- Sometimes in various domestic situations, or a break-up gone terribly wrong, things can get downright dirty and nasty without even realizing that you are now crossing the line of legality.
- Then there are the not so personal situations we can stumble upon, such as; road rage, or being cut in line while standing in the express lane. We read about these stories daily in the news or social media, now more than ever.
When Does Angry Banter Turn into a Criminal Act?
Well, according to New York State Law, there are violations, and there are crimes in the form of misdemeanors and felonies!
Forms of harassment may not even seem intentional, at the time, when emotions are high. Always try to make sure you remain calm and collected, to avoid crossing these lines in the State of New York. You never want your emotions to dictate your future, if you can avoid it.
Here are some examples that could lead to situations of harassment:
- Verbal Abuse
- Following or Chasing
- Unwanted Phone Calls or Texts
- Unwanted Contact
- Threats or Intimidation
- Alternate Communication – Once Blocked
- Demanding Emails
- Harassing Comments on Social Media
- Making the Victim Fearful
Repeated and Unwanted Actions
Different forms of harassment, as defined by New York State penal law
According to penal law 240.25
Harassment in the first degree is a class B misdemeanor. Harassment in the first degree is typically classified by the following:
- When you follow someone around, with the intention to harass them. You would leave the victim of such harassment in fear that their safety is in jeopardy while using repeated attempts to threaten or annoy the victim.
- A simple barrage of text messages or phone calls can set this charge in motion. Some people want to feel heard, especially when they are angry. Sadly, this can lead to forcing unwanted contact on the person receiving your less than desirable words of emotion.
All it can take to break the law of harassment in the first degree is the other party expressing that further contact from you is unwanted, or even worse, unexpected.
This should be your first indication that you are crossing a boundary. (Please note: This penal law was amended to exclude the random railway act, the labor act, and the federal employment labor- management act).
Two female friends decide to go to the mall, and they invite a third friend named Jill, who declined their offer by stating she has too many things lined up that afternoon and she cannot make the outing. While leaving the mall, the two girls notice that Jill just drove past them with a group. The two friends decide to text Jill, letting her know they saw her.
The girls get carried away at the moment and begin texting Jill insults that she is “not even pretty enough” and that she is “pathetic.” After repeated verbal insults, Jill feels intimidated by the girls and asks them to stop. The girls continue to text, bully, and insult Jill. Therefore, she made the following actions:
- She makes a police report at her local police station.
- Jill explains to the officer that she was not interested in keeping company with the girls, so she talked her way out of the situation.
Jill never intended to upset the girls but, now she fears for her safety. What the two girls felt were random insults, have now become Harassment in the first degree against Jill.
According to Penal law 240.26
Harassment in the second degree is a violation. This differs from penal law 240.25 Harassment in the first degree because penal law 240.26 is a violation and is not classified as a crime (a misdemeanor or a felony).
Please note: Although a violation is not a crime, you can still be convicted of committing a violation in the State of New York. However, similar-to penal law 240.25 you are guilty of harassing someone in the second degree if you do the following to the victim:
You are also guilty of Harassment in the second degree if you threaten to strike, kick, or shove the victim. Simply put, the intent to harass a victim can cause these allegations against you. (Please note: This penal law was amended to exclude the random railway act, the labor act, and the federal employment labor-management act).
A 22-year-old man and his 21-year-old male friend are leaving the movies. They end up having a disagreement with another male patron at the movie theater because the man cut in front of them at the exit door of the theater.
The two friends felt the man was rude and could have waited a few seconds or even asked to go ahead of them. The older male friend and the male patron begin an altercation which escalates to shoving and threatening to strike each other.
At this time, the manager of the movie theater calls the police, in fear the altercation could escalate, which fortunately does not happen. These are what happened next:
- When the police arrive, witnesses advise the officer that the two men were cursing, threatening and shoving each other
- The two men are then charged with harassment in the second degree because they made physical contact with an each-others person
According to Penal law 240.30
Aggravated Harassment in the second degree is a class A misdemeanor. You are guilty of Aggravated Harassment in the second degree when you do the following:
- Communicate such harassment electronically by the phone, email, text, verbally, or mail.
- Using threats of intimidation to another person, towards their family members, or property
- Using threats of intimidation, following, striking, shoving, kicking, and causing the victim to fear for their personal safety, or safety of their family or property
- Making remarks regarding sex, gender, race, religion, age, or disability is also considered aggravated harassment, even if the insults you are spewing are incorrect. The intent alone will cause you to be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
Additionally, having been previously convicted of Aggravated Harassment in the first degree (within ten years) will not help your cause!
According to Penal law 240.31
Aggravated Harassment in the first degree is a class E felony. You are guilty of Aggravated Harassment in the first degree when you do the following actions:
- Intend to threaten, harass or strike someone due to their race, gender, age, religion, disability (whether-or-not that belief is true)
- If you damage or destroy property used for religious purposes
- Additionally, as defined in section three of penal law 240.30, when you threaten or physically strike, kick, shove someone or their property
- If you deface property by placing racist or cult-like symbols on the victim’s home or property
- If you have been previously convicted (in the last ten years) of Aggravated Harassment
- If you set a cross on fire, hang a noose as a threat of intimidation upon the victim or us a symbol for racial intimidation
I believe there is much to be said here, as well as examples we could think about that would indicate many different stories of racism, or discrimination we have seen many times on the news or social media.
Time and time again, we see news reports of homes being vandalized by people simply because they are a Jewish family who just moved into the neighborhood. We have seen children and adults harassed over the color of their skin countless times.
More recently a story reported which was video recorded by a group on a subway of an unsuspecting elderly woman blindsided by a kick to her face. Onlookers were scrutinized as they stood by recording and watching as this elderly woman was victimized.
Sadly, we see more of these crimes of harassment since the rise of social media and smartphones. Fortunately, many times, we also see updates to these stories that the assailant had been caught because of social media!
According to Penal law 240.32
Aggravated Harassment of an employee by an inmate as considered a class E felony. This charge takes place when an inmate (a person detained by a correctional facility, hospital or a children and family services facility), begins to harass, threaten, or strike an employee of the facility.
This can be an employee from a correctional facility. A corrections officer, a mental health clinician, or an officer of the probation or parole department. You Can Be Found Guilty of Harassment if:
- You Threaten a Victim
- You Intimidate a Victim
- You Follow a Victim
- You Shove or Strike a Victim
- You Repeat Your Actions
You Can Be Found Guilty of Aggravated Harassment if:
- You Threaten a Victim
- You Strike or Shove a Victim
- You Threaten a Victim’s Family or Property
- You Use Discrimination Against a Victim
- You Threaten/Strike a Correctional Employee
What authorities handle cases of harassment?
Crimes of Harassment and/or Aggravated Harassment are prosecuted by local (city, town, and village), state and federal police agencies.
As mentioned above, these cases are charged as violations, misdemeanors, and felonies and are all punishable by New York State and when applicable, Federal Law. Various types of electronic devices can be used as evidence against you, such as:
- Text Messaging
- Social Media Pages
- Voice Recordings
- Physical Contact.
Who handles cases of harassment?
Most cases of harassment are handled at the state level by the criminal court system. Federal agencies can also have jurisdiction, such as over hate crimes of discrimination. Crimes of discrimination, harassment, and incidents of sexual harassment can also be grounds for civil lawsuit action within the jurisdictions of State and Federal court.
Police agencies also prosecute those who use alias names during crimes of harassment. Additionally, using an alias name during a criminal act of harassment can result in additional charges.
What is the punishment for harassment?
Violations are offenses, not including traffic infractions, that are not considered a crime in the state of New York. Violations can, however, result in a guilty plea or conviction. Violations can sometimes be handled by a field appearance ticket, which indicates when the subject needs to appear in court.
However, violations for crimes such as harassment within New York can impose a sentence of up to 15 days in jail.
What are Misdemeanors?
Misdemeanors are offenses in the State of New York, which do not include traffic infractions. Misdemeanor charges can carry imprisonment from 15 days to one year in jail, depending on the severity of the crime. There are three classes of a misdemeanor; class A, class B, and unclassified.
Class A misdemeanor
A conviction of a class A misdemeanor can carry a sentence of up to one-year imprisonment, three-years-probation as well as (up to) a $1,000.00 fine.
Class B misdemeanor
A class B misdemeanor can carry a sentence of (up to) three month’s imprisonment, or a term of one-year probation and/or up to a $500.00 fine. Restitution, fines, fees, or surcharges are always a factor in the criminal courts and should be expected when facing criminal charges.
An unclassified misdemeanor is imposed upon criminal charges that are not included in the penal law system due to the various nature of criminal cases. An unclassified misdemeanor can carry imprisonment from 15 days to one year in jail, or probation and fines, fees or surcharges.
What are Felony Charges?
Felony charges are classified as classes; A-I, A-II, B, C, D, and E. Felony sentences can carry a minimum of one-year imprisonment. Felony convictions can also carry a sentence from probation to life imprisonment, depending on the severity of the crime. Felony fines can range as high as $5,000.00 as well as restitution to the victim of a criminal act.
What Happens if I am Charged with Harassment?
If you are charged with a crime of Harassment or Aggravated Harassment, it is always best to remain respectful to all authorities involved. Due to the circumstances, you should not sign anything that you do not fully understand. You will be scheduled for arraignment, and the court will instruct you of your charges and your next court appearance date.
Should I seek Legal Representation for Harassment Charges?
You should always request to speak to an experienced attorney when facing any criminal harassment charges.
We have expert attorney’s available who specialize in harassment cases, like yours! If you have any questions or concerns,
Call us today to arrange a consultation!