What Are Criminal Harassment Charges?
Some individuals charged with criminal harassment genuinely are not aware that their behavior could be considered harassment to another person. However, there are equally many others who know or ought to have known that they were harassing another individual. The following is intended to help you understand when your actions can become criminal harassment.
Criminal harassment is an offense under section 264 of the Criminal Code. Criminal harassment charges often result from former domestic relationships, or when one person attempts to initiate a romantic relationship with another person who does not wish to do so. Another example of where criminal harassment charges are often laid is with ongoing disputes between neighbors, co-workers, or a person with whom you had prior business dealings with.
Offenses commonly associated with criminal harassment include uttering threats, threatening or harassing phone calls, common assault and mischief (Statistics). Commonly referred to as stalking, criminal harassment is defined as repeatedly following a person, or repeatedly communicating with a person, in a way that could have that person fearing for his or her security or someone else’s.
Criminal harassment is a direct attempt at a person’s dignity and security, including physical and psychological integrity.
What are the consequences of criminal harassment charges at work?
On the victim
A victim of criminal harassment at work may live in constant fear and lose all sense of reality. The victim may suffer from depression and carry deep emotional scars: fear, alienation, confusion, vulnerability, despair, mental anguish, and anger, indifference, loss of control, insecurity, mistrust and low self-esteem.
On witnesses inside the organization
Employees, who become involuntary witnesses of criminal harassment, like the victim, may live in fear. In extreme criminal harassment cases in Brampton, they can suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome, lose enthusiasm in their work and suffer from low self-esteem.
Actions that can be criminal harassment
Section 264 of the Criminal Code outlines conduct that can constitute criminal harassment. Conduct that can constitute criminal harassment includes:
- Repeatedly following from place to place the other person or anyone known to them,
- Repeatedly communicating with, either directly or indirectly, the other person or anyone know to them,
- Besetting or watching the dwelling-house, or place where the other person or anyone is known to them, resides, works carries on business or happens to be, or
- Engaging in threatening conduct directed at the other person or any member of their family.
Who can file criminal harassment charges
State venue and jurisdiction laws affect where a defendant can be prosecuted for a harassment charge. Some states have very broad venue provisions that permit a harassment charge to be filed where the harassment communication was made or where the communication was received. Potentially a defendant could be prosecuted in a state where he was never present physically if all communications were made electronically.
Usually, the victims file criminal harassment charges, but parents or guardians can also file charges on behalf of their child or ward if the child/ward was a recipient of the harassing communication. Onlookers are normally not considered victims for purposes of harassment charges.
Our courts have further held that actions such as persistent requests, solicitations, or incitements can be harassing behavior. While any one of these actions is likely going cause another person to feel they are being harassed, it does not necessarily mean that criminal harassment has occurred.
Defending Criminal Harassment Charges
The first step in defending criminal harassment charges is holding the Attorney to its burden of proving all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. While there are some criminal harassment cases in Brampton where identity may be an issue regarding who actually engaged in the harassing behavior, this is usually not where a defense is raised in criminal harassment cases. Similarly, the Attorney will often be in a position to prove that any of the conduct listed above did cause the complainant to feel harassed.
Most charges for criminal harassment are defended on the basis
- That you were not aware or reckless to the fact that your behavior caused the complainant to fear for their safety,
- That the complainant did not actually fear for their safety or that complainant’s fear, in all the circumstances, was not reasonable. When considering whether the complainant’s fear was reasonable, a judge will consider all the circumstances surrounding the specific conduct that lead to the complainant to fear for their safety.
Unfortunately, criminal harassment is an offense that does not require the Attorney to prove that you specifically knew and intended that your actions were harassment. The Attorney only needs to prove that you acted recklessly in regard to whether another person was harassed by your conduct. However, depending upon the facts of the case, it may be that the defense of honest mistake may be available.
Penalty for criminal harassment
A summary offense conviction for criminal harassment carries a maximum penalty of 6 months in jail. If the Attorney proceeds by indictment, the maximum penalty is 10 years imprisonment. Contact Saggi Law Firm for consultation on legal cases