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 criminal defense attorney in Colorado Springs may be able to help. Call at 719-264-9858 or fill out our online form 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.
What Are the Penalties for Harassment?
When charged under the state statute and not in municipal court, harassment is typically charged as a Class 2 Misdemeanor. Punishment for harassment as a Class 2 misdemeanor can include up to 120 days in jail, a fine up to $750, or both.
Harassment becomes a Class 1 Misdemeanor when the intent to harass was based upon a person’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability. A Class 1 Misdemeanor is punishable by up to 364 days in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. What would otherwise be a Class 2 Misdemeanor becomes a Class 1 because of the
motivation behind the act. Crimes typically considered hate crimes due to biased motivation are considered more serious under Colorado law.
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.