Criminal Harassment Laws + Sentencing

A criminal harassment charge can be levied against you in Massachusetts for several reasons. For you to be found guilty, prosecutors must show that you willfully and maliciously engaged in a pattern of conduct that would cause a reasonable person to feel emotional distress.

In most cases, the person who is charged knows the alleged victim. You might have been in a romantic relationship or a business partnership, and the other person desire you to stop contacting him or her but you did not stop. Or, you may have had no relationship with the person but a recent event caused you to contact the person more than one time, and he or she has gone to the police.

Sentencing Guidelines

If you are found guilty of criminal harassment in Massachusetts, you can be jailed for up to 2.5 years and given a fine of $1000 for a first offense. A second offense for criminal harassment can net you up to 10 years in jail.

A judge will consider several factors to determine what your sentence will be. For example, she may consider how much harm was done to the victim, any remorse that was shown, your criminal history and other factors.

Conviction for Criminal Harassment

For you to be convicted of criminal harassment, the prosecution needs to prove four elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • Must show that you engaged in a pattern of conduct on at least three occasions that were directed at the alleged victim.

  • Must show that the actions could cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress.

  • Actions must have caused the alleged victim to be seriously alarmed.

  • Must show that you engaged in such actions willfully and with malicious intent.

Under the laws of Massachusetts, ‘substantial emotional distress’ is required for you to be convicted of criminal harassment. This is something more than mere uneasiness, nervousness or unhappiness.

The conduct that needs to be directed towards the alleged victim three times or more includes any type of exchange, be it in person, by phone, email, letter or text message. However, if you sent an email to another person who then forwarded it to the alleged victim, this would not be direct contact.

People who have been victims of abuse or harassment can petition the court for an Order of Protection or Restraining Order. The state of Massachusetts provides such victims with two types of relief: abuse prevention order and a harassment prevention order. both injunctions will require you to do or not do certain acts. If you do not comply with one of these orders, you can incur fines, probation and sometimes jail time. Abuse and harassment orders are most common in cases involving domestic violence, harassment and stalking.

Stalking Even More Serious

Stalking in Massachusetts is related to criminal harassment but is more serious. Stalking requires the prosecution to show that you made a threat with intent to make a person fear harm or death. If you are convicted of stalking in this state, you face up to five years in prison and a $1000 fine for a first offense.

If you are convicted of stalking in violation of a protection order, you will get a minimum mandatory sentence of two years and up to 10 years in prison.

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Boston, MA 02116

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