Electronic communication allows you to quickly contact a person. In fact, you can conveniently send multiple messages to the same person within seconds. Although at times this might be fun – sending your friend several texts in a row asking what they're doing can get a laugh – in some cases, such behavior could result in a criminal charge.
So how do you know what's harassment and what's in good fun? We'll answer that in this blog.
What Qualifies as Harassment?
Texas Penal Code § 42.07 is statute law concerning harassment. It outlines several unlawful behaviors, but we'll focus only on the section about electronic communications.
Under the law, electronic communication includes:
- Social media messages,
- Instant messages, or
- Any other form of communication transmitted through wires, radio, electronic systems
The law says that it's illegal for a person to repeatedly send someone texts (or rather electronic communications in general). For your actions to be considered a crime, the person you sent the messages to must have been affected somehow.
A seemingly innocent conversation is considered an offense when the other person feels:
- Tormented, or
Additionally, for your behavior to be considered harassment, you must have engaged in it with the intent to cause such an effect in the other person.
The law and the conduct considered an offense is nuanced. If you've been accused of harassment, it's beneficial to discuss your case with an attorney who can help determine what your legal options are and what defenses may be available in your situation.
What Are the Penalties for Text Harassment?
Generally, harassing another person is a Class B misdemeanor. If you're convicted, the court could sentence you to up to 180 days in jail and/or fine you up to $2,000.
However, under specific circumstances, the offense can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor. These situations include when:
- You have a prior harassment conviction,
- Your harassment involved electronic communication to a minor to cause them to commit suicide or do something that resulted in serious bodily harm to them, or
- You previously violated a restraining order
In Texas, Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of up to $4,000.
Thus, what you might have considered to be several harmless texts to another person could end up changing your life substantially.
Are you facing criminal charges in San Antonio? Reach out to LaHood Norton Law Group by calling us at (210) 801-9400 or contacting us online today. Backed by over 70+ years of combined experience, we can provide the legal representation you need.