What do I do if I’ve been charged with threatening or harassing somebody?
It is far too easy for your emotions to overcome you and cause you to make a threat against another person and you will need a criminal attorney on your side if it happens. You may be a perfectly calm person but at some point another person did something that pushed you over the edge and you snapped. You released a tirade of profanity and threats that put the other person in fear for their safety. People face criminal charges every day in New York City for threatening and/or harassing their spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends and other family members.
The important thing to realize is that this crime can easily overlap with other offenses and you could face a long list of charges. Law enforcement officers have to take threats seriously in order to prevent ongoing harm and you can rest assured that you will be prosecuted if there is enough evidence.
- One of the more common situations in which deadly threats and harassment occur is in the context of domestic violence. Relationships are emotionally charged and domestic disputes sometimes escalate into violent and threatening encounters. Whether you made a single threat against someone’s life or you engaged in a systematic pattern of harassment or stalking, the State of New York will investigate the charges thoroughly.
Domestic violence and stalking are discussed in greater detail on other portions of our site, but it is important to note the overlap between these commonly charged offenses. As such, you may be charged with a crime for the threatening or harassing statements as well as additional charges for spousal assault or domestic abuse. If this is the case, you need to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney who has experience in the courts of the greater New York City and Long Island areas.
I just got carried away. What if I didn’t really mean to threaten the other person?
Threats don’t have to promises so long as the alleged victim reasonably interpreted the threat to be real. You may have just meant to scare them, but if they thought you were actually going to harm them and you had the present ability to do so, you can be in serious trouble. In some circumstances, even if you couldn’t have carried out the threat, you might still be criminally liable.
Harassment is a fairly straightforward offense while threats can exist as an element of several distinct criminal acts. Threats and harassment are accounted for in New York law under the following sections of the criminal code:
Penal Code § 240.26 – Harassment in the second degree:
You may be guilt of harassment in the second degree if with the intent to harass, alarm or annoy another person, you:
- Hit, kick, shove or cause other physical contact to the other person or you attempt or threaten to physically harm them;
- Follow them in or around public places; or
- Repeatedly commit acts with no legitimate purpose that alarm or annoy the other person.
This crime is a violation. However, certain types of actual physical harm can constitute other crimes such as assault, battery or worse.
Penal Code § 240.25 – Harassment in the first degree:
You may be guilty of harassment in the first degree if you intentionally or repeatedly harass another person by following them in public places or if you engage in a systematic course of conduct that places the other person in a reasonable fear of physical injury. This crime is a class B misdemeanor.
There are also more serious forms of harassment.
Penal Code § 240.30 – Aggravated harassment in the second degree:
You may be convicted of aggravated harassment in the second degree if you had the intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, you:
- Communicate with the other person by phone, email or other form of written communication in a way that is likely to cause annoyance or alarm
- Make a telephone call, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication; or
- Strike, shove, kick, or otherwise subject another person to physical contact, or attempt or threaten to do so because of a belief or perception regarding such person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct. These acts may also constitute a hate crime in certain circumstances. Aggravated harassment in the second degree is a Class A misdemeanor.
Penal Code § 240.31 – Aggravated harassment in the first degree:
You may be guilty of aggravated harassment in the first degree when with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person, because of a belief or perception regarding such person’s race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation, regardless of whether the belief or perception is correct, you:
- Damage premises that are used for any religious purpose; or
- Commit the crime of aggravated harassment in the second degree and you have previously convicted of aggravated harassment in the previous ten years. Aggravated harassment in the first degree is a class E felony.
Threatening another person can be a crime if it is involved in the offenses described above or any of the following crimes:
- Penal Code § 120.15 – Menacing in the third degree:
You may be found guilty of menacing in the third degree when, by physical menace, you intentionally place or attempt to place another person in fear of death, imminent serious physical injury or physical injury. Menacing in the third degree is a class B misdemeanor.
- Penal Code § 120.14 – Menacing in the second degree.
- Penal Code § 120.13 – Menacing in the first degree.
- Penal Code § 120.50. Stalking in the third degree.
- Penal Code § 120.55. Stalking in the second degree.
- Penal Code § 120.60. Stalking in the first degree:
Please see the other portions of our website for a lengthy discussion of stalking and its variations.
If I am charged with threats or harassment, what defenses will my attorney raise?
No two cases will ever be exactly the same, but some general defenses may include:
- The alleged victim could not reasonably have been placed in fear by the alleged threat or harassing activity
- You weren’t capable of causing any harm at the time or ever
- The threat was too vague to be taken seriously by the alleged victim
- Mistaken identity. You weren’t the person making the calls, threats or harassing communications
Only an experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorney can help you sort through the legal jargon and potentially overlapping offenses to make a viable defense plan. Attorney George Vomvolakis has years of experience and he can help you put on a solid defense. Call his office today for a free consultation!