Everyone has people in their lives who bother them or annoy them. Bullying can last well beyond school age. Relationships or rejections can turn sour, leading to annoying communications or interactions. Not every one of these interactions is sufficiently harassing or dangerous to be considered “harassment” or “stalking,” and many people are unfairly charged with these crimes.
To be clear: these offenses are criminal charges. That means that they carry potential penalties of fines, probation, and incarceration. Do not think that these charges will simply go away. It takes the active attention of an experienced criminal defense attorney to keep you out of jail, get charges reduced, or beat the charges at trial. The Queens criminal defense attorneys at Sullivan and Galleshaw may be able to fight your case for you.
Harassment under New York Penal Law § 240
There are multiple levels of harassment under New York law. Found in NY Penal Law § 240.25 through § 240.32, New York’s harassment crimes include four different levels of the crime, plus a specific crime for when an inmate harasses a government or healthcare employee.
The following detains explain each version of the crime of harassment in New York:
Harassment in the second degree under § 240.26
Harassment in the second degree is a broad offense that punishes each of the following:
- “Strikes, shoves, kicks” and other physical contact that falls short of assault;
- Following a person in public (similar to stalking); or
- Engaging in alarming or “seriously annoy[ing]” conduct that “serves no legitimate purpose.”
This is the lowest level of offense in New York, a “violation,” and is punished with up to $250 in fines and/or a potential of up to 15 days in jail.
Harassment in the first degree under § 240.25
Harassment in the first degree covers the crime of intentionally harassing someone by following them in public, or by “repeatedly committing acts which [place] such person in reasonable fear of physical injury.” This is a class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to three months in jail and fines up to $500.
Aggravated harassment in the second degree under § 240.30
Aggravated harassment in the second degree covers a wide variety of actions. This crime consists of doing any of the following with the intent to harass another person: anonymous communication, phone calls, strikes, or strikes to a family/household member. Additionally, if someone commits a first degree harassment crime within 10 years of being convicted for another first degree harassment, it is upgraded to aggravated harassment in the second degree. This is a class A misdemeanor punished by up to 1 year in jail and fines up to $1,000.
Aggravated harassment in the first degree under § 240.31
Aggravated harassment in the first degree is a class E felony, the highest level of crime for harassment. This includes harassment crimes that are based on an actual or perceived “race, color, national origin, ancestry, gender, religion, religious practice, age, disability or sexual orientation.” This includes the following actions, taken “with intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm”:
- Damaging religious premises,
- Repeated aggravated harassments in the second degree,
- Drawing a swastika on someone else’s property,
- Burning a cross, or
- Drawing or placing a noose on someone else’s property.
This is punished by up to four years in prison and fines up to $5,000
Aggravated harassment of an employee by an inmate under § 240.31
This is any harassment by an inmate of a mental health institution or jail/prison against an employee of the facility, parole board, or other government bodies. This is a class E felony with up to four years in prison and fines up to $5,000.
Stalking under NY Penal Law § 120
New York’s laws have four levels of stalking crimes. Some of the activities typically considered “stalking” may overlap with the harassment crimes above. The following are New York’s four levels of stalking crimes:
Stalking in the fourth degree under § 120.45
This level of stalking includes doing things targeted at a specific person “for no legitimate purpose.” It is only stalking if the defendant knows (“or reasonably should know”) that it will cause fear of physical harm, mental or emotional harm, or will threaten employment or business. This can include following someone, which includes tracking them by GPS. This is a class B misdemeanor punished by up to three months in jail and fines up to $500.
Stalking in the third degree under § 120.50
Stalking in the third degree is when a fourth degree stalking happens three or more times before conviction, occurs again within 10 years of a conviction, or occurs within 10 years of another violent felony against the same victim or an immediate family member. Alternatively, any course of conduct that puts the person in fear of injury, kidnapping, a sex offense, unlawful imprisonment, or death of themselves or a family member is also third degree stalking. This is a class A misdemeanor punished by up to one year in jail and fines of $1,000.
Stalking in the second degree under § 120.55
Similar to other crimes here, stalking in the second degree is an upgrade for any third degree stalking crime committed with the possession of a weapon, against the victim of another crime (or their family member), after another conviction of third degree stalking, or for more than 10 stalking events. Alternatively, if someone over the age of 21 repeatedly puts someone under 14 years-old in fear of physical harm, it is second degree stalking. This is a class E felony punished by up to four years in prison and fines up to $5,000.
Stalking in the first degree under § 120.60
This is the worst level of stalking. This crime is for any third or second degree stalking crime that occurs alongside intentional injury to the victim, or the commission of another crime. That other crime must be a class A misdemeanor or class D felony. This is itself a class D felony punished by up to seven years in prison and fines up to $5,000
Queens Criminal Defense Attorneys
The lawyers at Sullivan and Galleshaw fight to protect the rights of those accused of crimes. When you face serious criminal charges like harassment or stalking, talk to a defense attorney right away. Call (800) 730-0135 today for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.