Harassment is a serious offense under Texas state law that is charged as a misdemeanor. Nevertheless, conduct that triggers harassment charges can sometimes also be used to charge you with a felony. Harassment cases generally involve people who already know each other, particularly people who were once romantically involved with each other.
Harassment is defined under Texas law as a communication that is designed to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment or embarrass” another person. It includes conduct such as falsely reporting the death of the person’s loved one, threatening bodily injury, making an obscene phone call, and similar conduct. It even includes knowingly allowing someone else to use your telephone for this purpose.
Many different forms of communication can trigger harassment charges, including electronic communication such as text messages and emails. A first offense is charged as a Class B misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 180 days in jail and a $2,000 fine. Repeat offenses will upgrade the charge to a Class A misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a fine of $4,000.
If at the time of the offense you are under restrictions imposed by a protective order or a restraining order with respect to the complaining party, you could also be charged with violating the order.
If the prosecutor comes to believe that you engaged in repeated behavior that led someone to reasonably fear that you might seriously injure them, kill them, or damage their property, a harassment charge could be upgraded to a stalking charge.
Stalking is a felony in Texas and could result in up to 10 years in prison even for a first offense. You might also be charged with terroristic threat, a related charge that can result in incarceration of up to 180 days or up to 10 years, depending on the degree of seriousness of the offense.
Texas has passed a special law regarding online impersonation. You can be charged with a third degree felony for using someone else’s identity to post a web page or send messages through certain forms of digital media with the intent to defraud them or to harm them physically or psychologically. A third degree felony is punishable by up to 10 years in prison in Texas, and 2 years is the statutory minimum sentence if prison time is imposed.
Other forms of online harassment that have been criminalized under this law include sending unauthorized messages through certain digital media in someone else’s name with the intent to defraud or harm. This offense is charged as a Class A misdemeanor with a penalty of up to a year in jail.
A harassment charge is a serious matter in Texas, and, depending on the facts of your case, could lead to additional or more serious charges. With a skilled attorney however, you have options. I am an experienced criminal defense attorney, and I am not afraid to confront the Texas justice system and aggressively cross-examine witnesses. If you are facing a harassment charge, call Corley Legal, PLLC any time day or night in San Antonio or Austin and surrounding counties at (210) 444-2889 / (512) 444-2889, and I will be happy to schedule a consultation with you.