Harassment occurs in many ways. While the definition of harassment includes terminology such as “knowingly” or “intentionally” targeting or threatening someone with behavior that is annoying, alarming, or tormenting, you may not even completely realize you are harassing someone or being harassed.
Verbal threats, lewd language, and unwanted comments are common ways people are harassed. Obscene gestures and physical interactions such as shoving or even poking can fall under harassment. In fact, unwanted touching of any kind, can be considered harassment. In addition, damage to another’s personal property can also be deemed as harassment by Colorado law.
Harassment can happen anywhere; in the workplace, at school, over the telephone, or while using the internet. An individual may have been harassed in a public place such as a shopping mall or auto body service center. Harassment charges from incidents within the home such as sexual harassment or sexual assault are also not uncommon. If you are being charge of such crimes, you will want a sexual assault or domestic violence lawyer on your side.
Cyberbullying and Phone Harassment
Calling someone repeatedly can be filed as harassment. Unwanted phone calls including calling and hanging up can be cause for a harassment case. Repeated calls from debt collectors can also be considered harassment. In addition, unwanted texts, emails, and other forms of electronic communication are also grounds for harassment charges.
Cyberbullying can occur online through the use of threatening comments and pictures to humiliate or harass an individual. Computer based internet crimes are increasingly more common with social media outlets. In many cases of phone and electronic bullying or harassment, the plaintiff may obtain a restraining order against the defendant to prohibit further communications. If you are being charged with an internet crime you will want a criminal defense attorney who has the specific skills and knowledge to represent you.
A hostile work environment may be a result of workplace harassment. Sexual harassment is one of the most common types of harassment experienced at work. According to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 under Title VII, sexual harassment is constituted as unlawful discrimination and legal action is recommended to protect employees.
Harassment of any kind can happen between managers and employees or co-workers of the same level. Harassment may occur between two individuals, a group of people to a single individual, or a single individual to a group of people, and so on. Harassment in the workplace can even be from a non-employee such as a customer or delivery person.
Employees should report harassment to a manager or human resources department to document harassment. Providing evidence and examples is part of the process, especially if the harassment continues. If your workplace is unable to reconcile your situation then you may need to seek assistance outside of your place of employment.
Colorado law protects employees and potential employees from being harassed or discriminated based on race, sex, sexual orientation, gender, ethnicity, ancestry, age, and religion. Depending on the nature of your harassment, individuals may contact the Colorado Civil Rights Division to file a discrimination or harassment claim. If an employee reports harassment and the employer neglects to take action, the employer could be held liable for workplace harassment.
Filing for Harassment
As previously mentioned, if harassment happens at the workplace employees are suggested to report the encounter internally to a manager or Human Resources Department (especially if manager was the harasser). If harassment takes place outside of the place of employment or the individual is too uncomfortable to report a major incident at work, the individual being harassed may file criminal harassment charges at their local police department. If the individual being harassed feels imminent danger, they can call 911 to report threats or unsafe conditions.
The police investigate the harassment allegations to determine if criminal charges should be filed. If someone presses charges against you for harassment you will be notified by the police with a warrant for your arrest or when summoned for a court hearing.
Legal Consequences of Harassment
Besides having a restraining order to prevent communication or even physical proximity, if necessary, harassment with intent could send you to jail. Legal consequences for harassment depends on the nature of the harassment and if any other crimes were being committed. Typically, harassment is specified as a class 3 misdemeanor. A class 3 misdemeanor charge for harassment alone could send you to jail up to six months. An aggravated harassment charge could be accompanied by a jail sentence up to 12 months.
In the state of Colorado, if harassment directly correlates to an individual’s ethnicity, race, or religion the charge could be elevated to a class 1 misdemeanor. Consequently, punishment is increased with class 1 harassment charges. Jail time for class 1 misdemeanor for racial, gender, or religious harassment ranges from 6 to 18 months and fines are raised to $500 – $5,000.
Thankfully, not all harassment charges are subject to jail sentences. In fact, most harassment cases are settled out of court. Your criminal defense attorney will guide you through the legal process whether you are settling out of court or going to trial.
In addition to potential fines, settlement fees, and jail time, community service is another possible outcome if charged with harassment. Furthermore, individuals with anger or substance abuse issues relating to harassment charges may be required to complete therapeutic recourse as part of their sentencing. No matter what your charges are, your criminal defense lawyer can work with you, the court, and the plaintiff to mitigate your circumstances.
Seek Legal Aid
In the state of Colorado, the law aims to protect individuals, thus, harassment is not to be taken lightly in the court. While some evidence may indicate that harassment occurred, additional information may prove that the conduct was made completely unaware or even as an act of self defense. Having the right criminal defense lawyer can help protect you and present your best case.
In the event you or someone you know is being charged with harassment crimes seek legal advice immediately. Schedule an appointment at the law offices of M. Colin Bresee for a free consultation.