Criminal Harassment Defense Attorneys
Criminal harassment is defined in Massachusetts law as the following:
Whoever willfully and maliciously engages in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts over a period of time directed at a specific person, which seriously alarms that person and would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, shall be guilty of the crime of criminal harassment.
The conduct described above may be written or verbal, and includes mail, phone calls, email and other internet communications such as text messages or social media direct messages (DMs).
Requirements for Conviction
In order to secure a conviction, the prosecution will need to prove that:
- the defendant engaged in a knowing pattern of conduct or speech, or series of acts, on at least three separate occasions.
- the defendant intended to target alleged victim with the harassing conduct or speech, or series of acts, on each occasion.
- the conduct or speech, or series of acts, were of such a nature that they seriously alarmed the alleged victim.
- the conduct or speech, or series of acts, were of such a nature that they would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
- the defendant committed the conduct or speech, or series of acts, willfully and maliciously.
Each of these elements must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
For a first-time conviction of criminal harassment, a defendant will face up to two and a half years in a house of correction, or a fine up to $1,000, or both.
Each subsequent conviction of criminal harassment carries a sentence of up to two and a half years in a house of correction, or up to ten years in state prison.
Further Facts & Considerations
Many criminal harassment charges are now emerging from new channels provided by technology, and legislation has not yet caught up with this rapidly changing landscape. However, the highest court in Massachusetts, the Supreme Judicial Court, has recently started to weigh in on the varied and nuanced uses of technology, and are determining the way that certain technological tactics could amount to harassment.
For example, GPS tracking. The Supreme Judicial Court evaluated the case of Commonwealth v. Brennan, where the defendant was accused of placing a GPS device under the vehicles of a husband and wife and tracking their movements.
The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the district court’s initial order dismissing a complaint issued against the defendant charging him with two counts of criminal harassment. In their opinion, the justices determined that the defendant’s actions were “malicious,” because he had no justification for his conduct in tracking the vehicles. In upholding the charge, they ruled that the series of acts outlined against the defendant satisfied the elements of criminal harassment.
Interestingly, the court made sure to note that not every case involving a GPS tracking device would amount to criminal harassment. These charges are very much specific to each individual case, and retaining experienced counsel is crucial to a good defense.
Defending Against Criminal Harassment Charges
Our defense attorneys have experience successfully defending people charged with criminal harassment and related charges in Massachusetts. We offer free confidential phone consultations, where we can give you feedback about our plan of attack, as well as a price quote for your case.
If you’re charged with criminal harassment, call us at 781-797-0555 today.