Let’s say you have a friend that you like talking to. You call them quite a few times to tell them about things that are on your mind. During one of the phone calls, your friend tells you to stop calling them; otherwise, they are going to report you for harassment. But is that possible? Could you be charged with an offense for repeatedly contacting someone by phone?
Under Texas’s harassment law, if you call someone multiple times, you could face criminal charges. However, whether or not you’ve committed an offense depends on your intentions.
Texas Penal Code 42.07 defines harassment as engaging in communication that is intended to:
- Torment, or
If you call someone multiple times or make their phone ring repeatedly with the intentions listed above, you’re breaking the law. Additionally, calling someone and then not hanging up is also a violation.
But what if you’re not the one who made the call? Is that illegal? If the phone was yours, yes. Handing your phone to someone else knowing that they’re going to use it to harass a person is an offense.
Types of Prohibited Contact
Telephone calls aren’t the only communication medium covered by the law. Any contact that makes a person feel annoyed, alarmed, tormented, or embarrassed could be considered harassment. For example, if you repeatedly text, email, or send social media messages to someone, that person may report you for committing an offense.
Contact containing the following kinds of messages is forbidden:
- Obscenities: Making a comment, suggestion, or proposal that could be considered obscene is unlawful. The law defines obscenities as descriptions of or requests for sex acts, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, oral sex, or anal sex. Additionally, describing excretory functions is not allowed.
- Threats: Communicating threats in writing, by telephone, or electronically is also illegal. The person receiving the communication must be reasonably alarmed and believe that they, their family members, household members, or property is at risk of bodily injury or harm.
- False reports: Telling a person that someone else has suffered bodily injury or death when the person communicating the information knows it is wrong is illegal.
What are the Penalties for Harassment?
Generally, harassment is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, which carries conviction penalties of up to 180 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
However, in certain situations, the level of offense can increase to a Class A misdemeanor.
The factors that result in more serious charges include:
- Having been previously convicted of this offense
- Sending repeated electronic messages to someone and having been found to have violated a temporary restraining order or injunction
- Sending electronic communication to someone under 18 years of age with the intent to encourage the person to:
- Commit suicide
- Do something that would cause serious bodily injury to themselves
The penalties for a Class A misdemeanor include a jail term of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Get Skilled Legal Help from Rodriguez & Gimbert
If you’ve been accused of committing an offense in Bryan and College Station, our attorneys are here to provide the aggressive representation you need to fight charges. We have over 45 years of combined experience and have effectively handled felony and misdemeanor cases.
We will fight hard to protect your rights. Call us at (979) 559-3599 or contact us online today.