Being charged with criminal harassment is never a pleasant ordeal. The effects of such a charge carry severe personal and professional consequences. If you or someone you know is facing such a charge, you do not have to face it alone. Armed with the right legal defense, you can obtain a favorable legal outcome. Contact Boston criminal harassment attorney Kathleen McCarthy for a legal consultation. She provides legal representation to residents throughout Massachusetts, including Lawrence, Lowell, Haverhill, Concord, Ayer and Newburyport. Call 978-975-8060 to speak with her directly. Read on to learn more about a criminal harassment charge in Massachusetts.What Does Massachusetts Define as Criminal Harassment?
Massachusetts defines criminal harassment as a pattern of willful and malicious behavior committed with the intent to cause fear, intimidation, bodily, or property harm and that does in fact cause fear, intimidation, bodily or property harm to the alleged victim. The court defines a “pattern” to be 3 consecutive acts of harassment. In other words, a defendant must act in a harassing way at least 3 times, and that behavior must have an actual and measurable effect upon the “victim.”
Actions that warrant a harassment charge are fairly broad. Any conduct, acts, or threats that can be used in court include but are not limited to: mail, telephone, e-mail, telecommunication, text-message, radio, wire, photographic, or other electronic communication. Of course, any physical stalking, such as showing up at a person’s workplace or driving in front of their home, would fall under this type of charge. In some situations, even offering the “victim” unsolicited gifts or presents could be considered harassment.What Are the Penalties for Harassment in Massachusetts?
If you are convicted of criminal harassment, you can be sentenced to the House of Corrections for up to 2 ½ years and will face a fine of up to $1,000. Because of the potential for a jail sentence, it is very important to make sure that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you if you are charged with this crime. There are a myriad of ways for this type of case to be disposed of that will avoid having a criminal conviction enter for a defendant. What’s more, if it is your 2nd or subsequent conviction, you can be sentenced to state prison for up to ten years.
Since the passage of the Harassment Prevent Order law in 2010, possible penalties for criminal harassment have escalated. If you are convicted of harassment in violation of a Harassment Prevention Order, you will face up to $5,000 in fines and/or up to a 2 ½ year jail sentence. Also, you may be ordered by the court to pay for all personal and property damages suffered by the “victim,” in addition to lost wages, medical expenses, and other out-of-pocket costs. The judge could also require you to pay $350 and take part in an “appropriate treatment program.”What Are the Possible Defenses?
Despite the broad definition of harassment, the burden of proof is still on the Commonwealth. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s actions were both willful and malicious. To prove willfulness, the prosecution must show that the defendant’s actions were not accidental. To prove malice, the prosecution must prove that any reasonable person would have predicted the harmful effects of such actions upon the victim. The prosecution must also prove that the defendant’s actions were directed or targeted to the “victim” in question. Attorney Kathleen McCarthy can use the evidence asserted against you in court and turn it around to support your innocence.
For example, let’s say the prosecution brings a witness to the stand who claims you harassed the “victim” by driving by his or her workplace or showing up unannounced. This can easily be discredited if the workplace is in a public area or if you had no way of knowing that the “victim” would be present at that exact moment in time. Also, Boston criminal harassment attorney Kathleen McCarthy can discredit the prosecution’s assertion that a defendant’s actions were malicious. Let’s say you sent the “victim” a birthday card and flowers but did not attempt physical contact. This act alone could not be construed to be malicious, as a reasonable person would not predict this behavior to cause someone emotional distress. Attorney Kathleen McCarthy has reached dismissals or favorable plea bargains by creating doubt in these two areas.
Also, the Commonwealth must prove the defendant’s actions caused the “victim” a “significant” amount of emotional distress. It is up to the judge or jury to decide what significant means as it pertains to conviction. Defense attorney Kathleen McCarthy can cross-examine the “victim” to demonstrate that his or her emotions are not the same as the emotions of a reasonable person in the same situation. In other words, attorney Kathleen McCarthy can demonstrate that the “victim” is exaggerating the emotional harm he or she claims to be experiencing and discredit the “victim’s” testimony altogether.
Contact Boston, Massachusetts criminal harassment attorney Kathleen McCarthy for a consultation. As a former prosecutor, she is skilled in defending her clients against a criminal harassment charge. Call 978-975-8060 to speak with her directly.