Long Island Aggravated Harassment Lawyer
What Happens After a Harassment Charge
If you, a friend or a loved one is charged with a harassment charge in the state of New York, you may find yourself wondering what that charge means, what the process from charging to trial may involve, and what your potential penalties may be. There will be many decisions to make through the course of mounting a defense against aggravated harassment charges, and one of the first steps to making an educated choice is to understand the types of harassment under the law and what the impact of a charge or conviction could be.
What are the Harassment Charges?
Under New York law, there are traditional harassment crimes, aggravated harassment charges, and charges for harassment by inmates against corrections employees. Some of these charges have some overlap with assault statutes, and it is not uncommon for a person to be charged with both assault and harassment. However, harassment laws have some varied applications.
If you have researched most charges in the state, you will have found that these criminal charges are tiered according to their severity, and each increase in tier equals a more serious potential penalty. Harassment charges are likewise tiered, and while the lowest tier is considered a violation, others are misdemeanors and the most serious are felonies that carry the potential for up to four years’ imprisonment.
Harassment in the Second Degree
A person may be charged with Second Degree Harassment for a number of offenses. Ultimately, the person must have the intent to harass, alarm or annoy another person. They can do so by shoving, striking, kicking or makes physical contact with the victim or threatening to do so. A person may be charged for following the victim in or around public places or even a single public place. Repeated acts, criminal or otherwise, can also qualify under this charge, if the acts serve no legitimate purpose and alarm and/or seriously annoy the victim.
Second Degree Harassment is considered a violation of New York law and could potentially lead to a fine, but not jail time on the first offense.
Harassment in the First Degree
First Degree Harassment is a more serious harassment charge and carries more serious penalties. While Second Degree Harassment includes annoying, harassing or alarming the victim, First Degree Harassment involves placing a person in reasonable fear of physical injury. These harassing acts must be intentional and repeated and may include following a person in a public place, repeatedly committing acts, or engaging in a specific course of conduct.
This class B misdemeanor carries a possible penalty of up to three months behind bars. There are exceptions, however, if the allegedly harassing activities are regulated by the national labor relations, federal employment labor management, or railway labor acts.
What is Aggravated Harassment?
Aggravated Harassment is a much more serious charge than first or second degree harassment. There are specific actions that can transform a charge from harassment to aggravated harassment, and as a result, a person’s potential penalty increases with the severity of the crime.
Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree
Unlike traditional harassment charges, aggravated harassment involves specific actions and/or scenarios in order for a person to be charged with this class A misdemeanor. One such situation requires the person charged to communicate or cause the communication (by phone, mail, email, text messaging, social media, etc.) of a threat to cause physical or unlawful harm to the victim’s person or property, or to the person or property of a member of the victim’s family or household. Under this scenario, the person charged must have known that the threat would place the victim in reasonable fear of the physical or unlawful harm.
A person may also be charged by making a telephone call with the intent to harass or threaten with no intent to communicate legitimately. Attempted or actual physical contact such as striking or kicking may also qualify, either because the action causes injury or because the physical contact is due to the victim’s race, color, ancestry, religion, sexual orientation, disability, nationality, etc.
Repeat offenders may also find themselves charged with aggravated harassment in the second degree. If a person has been convicted of first degree harassment in the last ten years, a second offense will result in a charge of Second Degree Aggravated Harassment.
As a class A misdemeanor, this charge carries a potential imprisonment of up to one year.
Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree
As with Second Degree Aggravated Harassment, First Degree Aggravated Harassment has a number of specific situations and acts that may qualify for this charge. However, there is one unique characteristic of the first degree charge of this crime. This particular form of harassment is often called a “hate crime” because each of the actions included in the statute must be committed due to the belief or perception of the person charged regarding the victim’s race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, ancestry, disability, nationality, age, etc.
If a person damages premises that are used for religious purposes or for religious instruction and the damage exceeds fifty dollars, the person may be charged with First Degree Aggravated Harassment. The etching, painting, drawing, or placing of the swastika or a noose on real property without permission or setting a cross on fire in public view can also support a charge under this statute.
Like other harassment crimes, repeat offenders may find themselves charged with First Degree Aggravated Harassment for a second Second Degree Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree in less than ten years.
Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree is a felony, and a person could find themselves receiving a potential penalty of up to four years in prison for this class E crime.
Aggravated Harassment of an Employee by an Inmate
An inmate may be charged with Aggravated Harassment of an Employee if the inmate attempts to cause the employee to come into contact with blood, urine, seminal fluid or feces. The inmate must know or reasonably should know that the employee works for the board of parole, office of mental health, police officer, etc.
A person is considered an inmate if they are an inmate or detainee at a correctional facility, local correctional facility or a hospital.
Like First Degree Aggravated Harassment, Aggravated Harassment of an Employee by an Inmate is a class E felony, and it carries a potential penalty of up to four years in prison, which further extends an inmate’s current incarceration.
How Easy is it to be Charged with Harassment?
For many of the tiers for harassment crimes, a person’s intent as well as what that person knows are important factors in determining whether the state should bring a charge of harassment and what tier that charge should be on. Unfortunately, this is not as clear-cut as it seems. Because the state cannot get in someone’s head to determine their real intentions, the facts and circumstances of the incident are often used to infer what a person knew, believed or intended at the time of the harassing act or acts.
It is important to understand that even if a person truthfully did not know an important fact (like the fact that a particular statement would cause fear in the victim or that the victim was an employee of a correctional facility), that may not matter. In the case of many of these statutes, the person charged does not need to actually know something as long as someone would reasonably have known it.
What Other Consequences Can Come from a Conviction?
Part of preparing for a case is preparing for the worst case scenario. A person charged with any crime will have a number of difficult decisions to make related to the case, but it is vital that those choices be informed decisions. The consequences of a conviction do not begin and end with the penalties under New York State statute. Some of the consequences may have very little to do with the legal system.
Convictions are public record and appear on criminal background searches. Although there has been a greater push to discourage employers from searching someone’s criminal record before offering that person a job, it still happens. Employers may look at certain charges and have concerns that the person will not be able to work well with co-workers or handle customers easily. Also, because so many different criminal acts qualify for a specific charge, an employer may make the wrong assumption as to what action led to the conviction. For instance, the employer may assume a charge for First Degree Aggravated Harassment was for racially motivated harassment when the individual convicted was merely a repeat offender of Second Degree Aggravated Harassment.
What Can Affect Sentencing?
Though there are statutory minimums and maximums to the sentences a judge may issue in a harassment case, there is often some flexibility to what a judge may offer. One factor is to show remorse and to make an attempt to remedy the behavior that caused the harassment. If the person charged attends anger management or therapy, it could demonstrate to the court that the person is trying to improve and trying to avoid repeating the harassment.
If you have been arrested for Harassment or Aggravated Harassment in Nassau, Suffolk or Queens County, call Scott J. Limmer without delay
You can contact Scott by phone at 516-742-2300 to speak to him immediately. He is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round and your initial consultation is free.
Nassau County Criminal Law Office
200 Old Country Road Suite 2 S Mineola, NY 11501 Telephone: 516-742-2300
Queens County Criminal Law Office
80-02 Kew Gardens Road Suite 300 Kew Gardens, NY 11415 Telephone: 718-742-6300