A Quick Look at Indiana’s Statutes on Intimidation, Harassment, and Stalking
Before you post that nasty comment about someone on Facebook, or before cyber stalk…you might want to think about whether that communication or internet spying might cross the line.
In this blog the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys of Banks & Brower will focus on two of the most common communication-based criminal charges: intimidation and harassment,both of which seem to be filed more and more often, especially with the advent of social media and the ease at which people are accessible and in which someone can invade on people’s personal and private lives. A quick way to differentiate the two is an intimidation is typically based on a “threat” while harassment is based on “annoyance.” As such, we find now is as good as a time as ever to address both of these crimes in detail.
Intimidation is defined in IC. 35-45-2-1. The statute itself hinges on the definition of “threat,” and many would be surprised by what qualifies as a “threat.” According to the statute, a threat is “an expression, by words or action, of an intention to:
(1) unlawfully injure the person threatened or another person, or damage property;
(2) unlawfully subject a person to physical confinement or restraint;
(3) commit a crime;
(4) unlawfully withhold official action, or cause such withholding;
(5) unlawfully withhold testimony or information with respect to another person’s legal claim or defense, except for a reasonable claim for witness fees or expenses;
(6) expose the person threatened to hatred, contempt, disgrace, or ridicule;
(7) falsely harm the credit or business reputation of the person threatened; or
(8) cause the evacuation of a dwelling, a building, another structure, or a vehicle.”
The statute says that when a person communicates a “threat” to another person and intends to (1) force someone to engage in behavior against their will, (2) place another person in “fear of retaliation” for a “prior lawful act,” (3) force someone from their house, building, structure or vehicle, commits a Class A Misdemeanor, Intimidation.
However, the crime can become a Level 6 Felony (with a sentence potential of 6-months to 2.5 years) if the “threat” (1) is used to commit a “forcible felony,” (2) is made against the following people: a police officer, judge/bailiff, a witness, a spouse or child of a witness, an employee of a school corporation, a volunteer police officer, court employee, probation officer/employee, community corrections officer/employee, (3) is made by a individual with a prior unrelated conviction concerning the same victim, and/or (4) is made by way property (including electronics) of a school corporation or governmental entity.
Even more harshly, Intimidation can also be charged as a Level 5 Felony with a penalty range of 1-6 years! In order for it be filed under this section, the “threat” must be made by use of a deadly weapon.
Harassment as a Class B Misdemeanor is defined in Indiana Code 35-42-2-2 and exists when a defendant intends to annoy, harass, or alarm another person in a way that would not be considered “legitimate communication.” In other words, when evaluated from a a non-biased person’s perspective, the communication from the defendant is made in such away that it is not intended as simple, normal dialogue or communication. Rather, the illegitimate communication is made by a perpetrator in the following ways: (1) a phone call with or without conversation, (2) a communication by written mail or telegraph, (3) an obscene communication with profane words or messages through a “Citizens Radio Service,” (4) an electronic communication by way of a computer network (as defined in IC 35-43-2-3(a)) to communicate to another person or transmit an obscene message or indecent/profane word to a person.
The statute goes on to define “obscene” as a message that: (1) when looked at by an average person who applies contemporary community standards, would find that “the dominant theme of the message, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest in sex, (2) refers to conduct sexual in nature and is conveyed in a patently offensive manner, and/or (3) taken as a whole, does not have any “serious artistic, literary, political, or scientific value.”
As social media becomes more and more prevalent in today’s society, it only leads to reason that crimes like Intimidation and Harassment will be filed more and more often. In a time when people are available to communicate 24/7 by way of facebook, twitter, instant messaging, texting, etc., what once would take a real effort to communicate with someone, now only takes a smart phone or internet communication and a few seconds of wrongful action. Given the ease at which people can communicate nowadays, people often don’t have the ability to think about the ramifications of their actions prior to sending a message or spying on another person. That’s why many have said that technology and social media have all but killed privacy and common sense, and as the lines continue to get blurred, crimes like these will continue to be filed.
Therefore, if you or a loved one find yourself charged with the crimes of Intimidation or Harassment, give the Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC a call today at 317.870.0019. They answer their phones 24/7/365. Or, feel free to reach out to them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The experienced Indianapolis Criminal Lawyers at Banks & Brower stand ready to help you through any criminal or legal matter you may be facing.