Harassment allegations can take place in the workplace or in a domestic relationship. In many of these cases, the alleged victim will also pursue a restraining order. Harassment can occur in person, over the telephone, or through electronic communications via email or social media platforms.
Under Texas Penal Code § 42.07(a), a person commits the offense of harassment if with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another, he or she engages in certain proscribed conduct. A person can be charged with the offense of harassment if it is alleged that the defendant:
- with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another; and
- engages in certain proscribed conduct.
Speech that is classified as “harassment” under Texas law is not generally protected under the First Amendment. Under Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 42.072(a)(1), the crime of harassment can rise to the level of stalking if it is engaged in repeatedly pursuant to a scheme or course of conduct.
Attorney for Harassment in San Antonio, TX
The attorneys at Goldstein & Orr represent clients charged with harassment throughout San Antonio, TX, and the surrounding areas of Bexar County. We can help you fight these serious charges with the goal of getting the case dismissed.
Contact us for a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. Call (210) 226-1463 today.
Elements of Harassment under Section 42.072
The statutory scheme provides seven different ways that the crime of harassment can be committed. Texas Penal Code § 42.072 was amended effective September 1, 2013. The criminal offense provides:
(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another, the person:
- initiates communication and in the course of the communication makes a comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene;
- threatens, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the threat, to inflict bodily injury on the person or to commit a felony against the person, a member of the person’s family or household, or the person’s property;
- conveys, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the report, a false report, which is known by the conveyor to be false, that another person has suffered death or serious bodily injury;
- causes the telephone of another to ring repeatedly or makes repeated telephone communications anonymously or in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another;
- makes a telephone call and intentionally fails to hang up or disengage the connection;
- knowingly permits a telephone under the person’s control to be used by another to commit an offense under this section; or
- sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.
Definitions under the Texas Harassment Statute
The term “electronic communication” is defined to mean “a transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system.” The term “electronic communication” includes either:
- a communication initiated by electronic mail, instant message, network call, or facsimile machine; and
- a communication made to a pager.
The term “family” and “household” have the meaning provided in Chapter 71, Family Code.
The term “obscene” means containing a “patently offensive description of or a solicitation to commit an ultimate sex act, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus, or a description of an excretory function.”
Although the crime of stalking and harassment might partially overlap in subject matter, each crime addresses a different type of conduct. For instance, charges for stalking can be distinguished from charged for harassment because stalking requires conduct that is knowing committed in one of the following ways:
- on more than one occasion;
- pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct; and
- directed specifically at one person.
On the other hand, the elements of harassment require only one offense and without any requirement that the conduct be directed at one specific person. Additionally, the mens rea for harassment is intentional conduct which is a higher standard than conduct that is knowingly committed under the stalking statute.
Penalties for Harassment in Texas
As of September 1, 2017, Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 42.07(c) was amended to provide that an offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, except that the offense is a Class A misdemeanor if:
- the actor has previously been convicted under this section; or
- the offense was committed under Subsection (a)(7) and:
- the offense was committed against a child under 18 years of age with the intent that the child:
- commit suicide; or
- engage in conduct causing serious bodily injury to the child; or
- the actor has previously violated a temporary restraining order or injunction issued under Chapter 129A, Civil Practice and Remedies Code.
The term “electronic communication” is defined in Tex. Penal Code Ann. § 42.07(b)(1).
Finding a Lawyer for Harassment in Bexar County, TX
If you were arrested for harassment, then contact a criminal defense attorney at Goldstein & Orr. We represent clients charged with harassment or stalking under Texas law throughout San Antonio, TX, and the surrounding areas throughout Bexar County.
The consequences of a conviction for this Class B misdemeanor are serious. The consequences are even more serious if you have been previously convicted under this statute. We can help you understand the charges and defenses that might apply to your case. Call (210) 226-1463 for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case.