At what point does thoughtless, obnoxious behavior cross the line to become a crime of telephone or electronic harassment? Consider the following situations:
- A person makes repeated phone calls to another with the intent to harass them, whether the calls involve any conversation, just hanging up, making abusive or threatening statements, or making obscene comments or suggestions.
- A student in the midst of a heated online game battle with other students sends out a text message saying, “We are so going to kill you!”
- A person sends an email to a victim that threatens to beat them up.
- A person sends a “sext” message or email which includes an obscene image or makes an obscene proposal.
Harassing and Obscene Communications
All of the above actions can constitute harassing and obscene communications, which are prohibited by Illinois law. This law defines “harassing” as conduct that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress and does cause emotional distress to the victim. A first violation of this statute is a Class B misdemeanor, while a second or subsequent offense is a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum punishment of either 14 days in jail or 240 hours of community service.
This charge can be elevated to a Class 4 felony if the offender:
- Was over 18 years of age and harassed a person under age 18;
- Was over age 16 and harassed a person under age 13;
- Was subject to a court order prohibiting contact with the victim;
- Made a threat to kill as part of the offense;
- Has one or more prior harassment violations involving the same victim or a member of their family;
- Has three or more prior telephone or electronic harassment violations in the past 10 years; or
- Has been convicted of a forcible felony in the last 10 years.
Example Cases of Electronic Harassment
In one recent Illinois case, a high school teacher was convicted of Class B misdemeanor electronic harassment after sending dozens of suggestive text messages and emails to a 16-year-old student. His sentence for this included:
- Six months of electronically-monitored home confinement;
- Two years of probation; and
- Restitution of $5,250 to pay for counseling for the victim.
In a separate McHenry County case, a woman told a man to stop harassing a group of women. The man followed up by using an electronic device to harass the woman, threatening to slit her throat. The 23-year-old man claimed the threat was “meant as a joke” and that he “just has no filter on his mouth.” Nonetheless, he was charged with electronic harassment. Because the man did not menace the woman in person, his behavior did not rise to the level of assault.
Call a Knowledgeable Will County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with harassment or assault in Will County, seek advice from an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney. At the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba, we will thoroughly investigate your case and vigorously defend you against any misdemeanor or felony charges. Contact us at 815-740-4025 for a free consultation. We respond to calls around the clock.