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Defense Options Available When Charged with Harassment

“Harassment” is a general category of crimes that may include not only minor physical contact with another, but also hate crimes, stalking, cyberbullying or sexual harassment. The general idea is that one person acts in a way to intentionally annoy, threaten or provoke another party.

Individuals who are accused of a harassment crime have several defense strategies available to them, the most common of which include:

  • Freedom of speech: The First Amendment protects the freedom of citizens’ speech. Although individuals do not have the freedom to harass others, one could argue that his or her words were not harassment as they lacked the intent to create emotional distress. An example would be a columnist ripping apart an actor’s performance in a stage show or movie. This person would have the freedom to publish opinion about the performance.
  • Unintended consequences: A defendant could argue the so-called act of harassment was not, in fact, intended to cause emotional distress. If a person played offensive music in a home with a window open and a neighbor heard it, for example, the person playing the music could not be charged with harassment. However, if the person played the offensive music just outside of the neighbor’s window on a regular basis, knowing it would inflict distress, it could be considered harassment.
  • Hollow threats: In other cases, defendants are able to argue that while they did indeed say something that sounded like a threat, they never actually intended to carry that threat out.

To learn more about what you should do when accused of harassment, consult dedicated Reading criminal defense attorney David R. Eshelman.

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