Harassing other people is not necessarily a crime, but there are times that harassment can cross the line into criminal behavior. So what makes harassment criminal, according to Virginia law? Can you go to jail for threatening someone? What are the criminal charges for harassment?
Harassment, as it is generally understood, is repeated and aggressive action that annoys or intimidates a person or group of people, thereby causing anxiety or fear. Looking at criminal law in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the five most common statutes that punish harassing behavior that crosses the line into criminal activity are phone harassment laws, computer harassment laws, obscene harassment laws, threat harassment laws, and privacy intrusion laws.
Definition: “Causing telephone or pager to ring with intent to annoy.” You are not allowed to use your phone or let anyone else use your phone in order to annoy instead of communicating with another person.
Penalties are more severe if the harassing calls are made to emergency numbers such as 911.
Penalty: Class 3 misdemeanor, Class 2 misdemeanor, Class 1 misdemeanor (depending on to whom the telephone calls are made and how often)
Definition: “[I]ntent to coerce, intimidate, or harass any person, [using] a computer or computer network.” You are not allowed to use your computer to be lewd, lascivious, profane, or obscene toward someone with the intent of harassing them.
You are also not allowed to threaten people with illegal acts.
Penalty: Class 1 misdemeanor
Definition: “Use of profane, threatening, or indecent language over public airways or by other methods.” You are not allowed to threaten or harass anyone via any method—including but not limited to CB radio, video chat, and telephone (whether it’s a smart phone or not).
Penalty: Class 1 misdemeanor
Definition: “Threats of death or bodily injury to a person or […] persons.” No matter what method (verbal, written, or otherwise), you are not allowed to tell anyone you are going to hurt or kill them anywhere—including on school grounds, at hospitals.
Penalty: Class 1 misdemeanor, Class 6 felony, Class 5 felony (depending on who is harassed and how often)
Definition 1: “Use of a person’s identity with the intent to coerce, intimidate, or harass.” You are not allowed to share someone’s photo, address, or other personal information with other people, if you are doing so for nefarious purposes.
Definition 2: “Unlawful dissemination or sale of images of another.” You are not allowed to distribute nude photographs or videos of anyone without their consent.
Penalty: Class 1 misdemeanor or Class 6 felony (depending on who is the victim)
In Virginia, the legal definition of stalking is a repeated action that causes a person or persons to fear death, injury, or sexual assault for themselves or their families. See full Virginia code.
The first conviction for breaking Virginia stalking laws is a Class 1 misdemeanor, but repeated offenses involve higher penalties, including Class 6 or even Class 5 felonies.
Virginia takes stalking very seriously. If someone is stalking across state lines, only one instance of stalking needs to have happened in Virginia to be prosecutable in Virginia.
Call local criminal attorneys, Cook Attorneys, right away if you have been charged with stalking in Virginia.
HARASSMENT AND STALKING PENALTIES
As we’ve seen, harassment and stalking at various levels have varying penalties—anywhere from Class 3 misdemeanor to Class 5 felony. Below are some helpful tables, explaining what those terms mean and what the consequences are for each.
Misdemeanor. See full Virginia code.
|Misdemeanor class||Max jail sentence||Max fine|
|Class 1||12 months||$2,500|
|Class 2||6 months||$1,000|
Felony. See full Virgina Code.
|Felony class||Max jail sentence||Min jail sentence||Max fine|
|Class 2||Life||20 years||$100,000|
|Class 3||20 years||5 years||$100,000|
|Class 4||10 years||2 years||$100,000|
|Class 5||10 years||2 years||$2,500|
|Class 6||5 years||1 year||$2,500|
IF YOU ARE BEING HARASSED OR STALKED…
If you are being harassed or stalked in Virginia, you probably have questions like: Can I get a harassment restraining order in VA? Is stalking a felony? How do I place telephone harassment charges?
What do I do if I’m receiving threatening phone calls? Call your local Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office or local law enforcement agency to discuss the benefits of taking legal action.
IF YOU ARE BEING ACCUSED OF HARASSMENT AND/OR STALKING…
Call Cook Attorneys, local defense attorneys, today, to understand your options. Cook Attorneys has a history of criminal defense in cases of harassment and stalking, and we will help you through every step of the legal process.
Schedule a free consultation right away.
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