Harassment charges are some of the most common in Colorado. Colorado law prohibits “harassment” in many forms, and as such, it is frequently used by district attorneys throughout the state as a catch-all for when they feel that something illegal has happened but no other statute fits the bill. The harassment lawyers at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC have the experience and skills to help you fight any allegation of harassment you are facing.
If you are facing these types of charges, our harassment attorney in Colorado Springs may be able to help. Call Patterson Weaver Law, LLC at 719-264-9858 today to begin with a free initial consultation.
Domestic Violence and Harassment
Harassment charges are most often issued in the context of domestic violence cases for very minor incidents that in most other statements would simply result in a warning. However, due to Colorado’s mandatory arrest laws for domestic violence cases, law enforcement officers often try to make a harassment allegation fit when nothing else clearly does. Even though harassment is a relatively low level offense, a domestic violence component can have far reaching consequences, such as the loss of your Second Amendment rights to own a firearm. If you are facing this type of charge, it is imperative that you contact a criminal defense attorney before you consider taking a plea that can have lifelong repercussions.
What Is the Law in Colorado?
Although there are a number of prohibited behaviors that fall under “harassment” in Colorado, in each instance the law requires an “intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person.” C.R.S. 18-9-111 (2017). This is known as a “specific intent” crime, and is distinguished from accidental or inadvertent conduct. For example, if you mistakenly dial the wrong number while looking for your friend, even in the middle of the night, there is no intent to harass or annoy the person being called. Now, if you were to call the wrong number repeatedly, or contact the same person over and over on social media, you run the risk of being charged with harassment.
Beyond a specific intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person, Colorado law labels a number of different types of conduct as harassment. Harassment can be physical, can stem from repeated telephone calls or electronic communications without any expectation of legitimate conversation, or it can apply to obscene words or gestures use in public towards another.
Physical harassment is probably the most commonly charged subsection of the harassment statute. The physical harassment portion of the statute prohibits strikes, shoves, kicks or other touching of another person or subjecting them to other unwanted physical contact. As you can see, there is no requirement for bodily injury or physical pain, you do not need to intimidate or instill reasonable fear in the recipient; all that is required is unwanted contact that is the made with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person.
Unfortunately, that is an incredibly broad definition of harassment, and if strictly applied can apply to a host of physical contact that no one would innately think was criminal.
Harassment in Colorado does not need to be physical. It is illegal under Colorado law to make repeated telephone calls, whether or not a conversation ensues, if there is no purpose for the call. It is also illegal to make repeated communications (telephone calls, text messages, etc.) at inconvenient hours that are found to invade their privacy or interfere with the use and enjoyment of their property.
In 2015, Colorado enacted Kiana Arellano’s law, named after a teenager that had attempted suicide as a result of cyberbullying that she had received, in an effort to curb electronic harassment in the digital age. As part of that change, the statute prohibits communication, anonymous or otherwise, via computer or computer network (such as Facebook or Instagram) intended to harass or threaten bodily injury, or makes an obscene comment, request or proposal.
Colorado law also prohibits those actions in a real life context, you are prohibited from directing obscene language or obscene gestures to another person in a public place, or from communicating threats, taunts or challenges that are likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.
Colorado courts have held the harassment statute to be a permissible limitation on free expression. See People ex rel. VanMeveren v. County Court, 551 P.2d 716 (1976). While we all greatly value our right to free speech and expression, there are limits on those rights, as there are to all rights. Therefore, keep in mind “the freedom of speech” does not permit a person to engage in blatant acts of harassment as codified in Colorado law.
If you are facing these types of charges, our criminal defense lawyers in Colorado Springs may be able to help. Call Patterson Weaver Law, LLC at 719-264-9858 today to begin with a free initial consultation.
What Are the Penalties for Harassment?
When charged under the state statute and not in municipal court, harassment is typically charged as a Class 3 misdemeanor. Punishment for harassment as a class 3 misdemeanor can include up to 6 months in jail and/or a fine between $50 and $750.
Harassment becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor when the intent to harass was based on a person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. Punishment for a Class 1 misdemeanor can include a range of 6-18 months in jail (24 months if it is an extraordinary risk offense) and/or a fine between $500 and $5000. What would usually be a class three misdemeanor becomes a class 1 misdemeanor because of the motivation behind the act. Crimes typically considered hate crimes due to biased motivation are now considered more serious under Colorado law.
Municipal harassment charges can have varying levels of potential punishment depending on the jurisdiction and that municipality’s particular municipal code. However, municipal harassment charges do not always show up on normal background checks, although it depends on the type and quality of the background check run.
Harassment and Third-Degree Assault charges are often charged together in domestic violence cases, particularly in El Paso and Teller counties. Ironically, while Third-Degree Assault is the higher level charge (being a class 1 misdemeanor), the elements of the offense often make it harder to prove than a harassment charge, since harassment is a specific intent crime requiring an intent to harass, annoy or alarm. In contrast, Third-Degree Assault only requires that someone knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury (which can mean simple pain) to another. These cases are most often charged together in domestic violence cases, which can be particularly tricky to navigate and require an experienced domestic violence attorney to ensure all your rights are protected.
How Can a Harassment Conviction Affect Me?
A criminal harassment conviction could result in many negative implications for your everyday life, career, and future. Harassment convictions do show up on background checks and could affect your reputation, employment, ability to get housing, and security clearance. You may be served with a civil lawsuit over your alleged inappropriate behavior. Additionally, harassment is a common charge filed in domestic violence cases, which require mandatory arrests in Colorado and usually at least one night in jail, if not more. In domestic violence harassment cases, a conviction to the charge can result in the permanent loss of your Second Amendment rights.
What Can I Do?
If you are charged with harassment, you should contact an attorney experienced in defending criminal harassment cases immediately. The attorneys at Patterson Weaver Law, LLC have significant experience defending all types of harassment allegations and would be happy to do a free consultation with you regarding your situation. Whether your case is categorized as domestic violence or not, these cases can cause significant harm to one’s life and future. Don’t take chances, and don’t try to handle a harassment charge alone.
Life happens. We can help. Contact our Colorado Springs harassment defense lawyer today to get started.