October 24, 2023 | Indiana Law
Harassment may be defined as behavior that intimidates, threatens, or demeans someone. The behavior is uninvited, unwanted, and unwelcome. The conduct is made without any legitimate purpose and causes alarm, nuisance, or substantial emotional distress.
Harassment can occur anywhere, but most people are familiar with workplace harassment and sexual harassment. Harassment can also be a form of domestic battery in Indiana. If the behavior meets specific criteria, harassment can be charged as a criminal offense in Indiana.
When Does Harassment Become a Crime Under Indiana Law?
Indiana Code §35-45-10-2 defines harassment as:
- Conduct targeted against someone;
- That includes but is not limited to continuing or repeated impermissible contact;
- That would cause a reasonable individual to experience emotional distress; and,
- Has actually caused the victim to suffer emotional distress.
Impermissible contact is defined as communicating with the victim, pursuing or following the victim, and posting on social media if the post is directed to the victim or refers to the victim. Harassment does not include constitutionally or statutorily protected activity.
Harassment rises to the level of a criminal act when a pattern of repeated conduct has no intent or legitimate purpose. Furthermore, the person committing the offense must intend to annoy, harass, or alarm the person by making telephone calls, communicating in writing, using electronic communication, or other means.
Examples of harassment might include sending unsolicited emails, text messages, or mail. Repeatedly calling a person, even if a conversation does not take place. Relentless targeting someone online or through social media could also constitute harassment.
What Are the Charges and Penalties for Harassment in Indiana?
The severity of harassment charges depends on several factors, including the personal characteristics of the victim involved, the type of harassment, the offender’s criminal history, and whether the victim sustains a serious bodily injury. Harassment charges include misdemeanors and felonies.
- The victim is an endangered adult
- The offender has a prior conviction for battery or strangulation
- The offense caused a household or family member to sustain bodily harm
- The offender is at least 18 years old and commits the offense against a family or household member when a child under 16 is present
- The victim is a family or household member with a mental or physical disability
- The offender is 18 years old or older and committed the offense against a family member or household member under 14 years old
- The victim has a protection order or no-contact order against the offender
- The offense was committed with a deadly weapon
- The victim was pregnant, the offender knew about the pregnancy, and the victim sustained bodily injury
A felony conviction of harassment could result in thousands of dollars in fines and years in prison. Additionally, there are collateral consequences if you are convicted of a harassment charge.
The court might take away your right to possess or carry a firearm. You might lose or be unable to renew a professional license. You could have difficulty finding a job and a place to live.
Common Defenses to Allegations of Harassment in Indianapolis, IN
An arrest for harassment is not a conviction. The prosecutor has the burden of proving each legal element required for a conviction.
Your Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer might have evidence that could raise reasonable doubt or prove your innocence. Your lawyer may attack the evidence the state presents. Your attorney might argue to the judge that the prosecution does not have sufficient evidence to prove their case.
You may also argue that your constitutional rights were violated. If so, your attorney may file a motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of the violation of your rights. For example, the court could rule that all evidence collected via an illegal search is inadmissible.
In some situations, the victim may have lied about the harassment. False allegations of harassment may be used by spouses in a divorce case, by an ex-partner for revenue, or by an angry neighbor.
What Should I Do if I Am Arrested for Harassment in Indianapolis, IN?
Do not talk to the alleged victim or anyone connected with them. Stop talking to the police. You are not required to give a statement or answer questions without a lawyer, and you should not. Contact an Indianapolis criminal defense lawyer for a free consultation as soon as possible.
Your future and reputation are at stake. Representing yourself is taking a considerable risk. Instead, contact an Indianapolis harassment defense lawyer for legal help.