How To File Harassment Charges in Texas Penal Code

This article explains the difference between criminal harassment and civil harassment in Texas. It also details how to file criminal charges for harassment and how to file civil charges for harassment.

Civil practice and remedies often differ from practice and remedies code in criminal cases.

In almost every case where there is a criminal charge, the victim will also have civil remedies. However, in cases where there are no criminal charges the victim may still have civil remedies. It just depends.

If questions still remain at the end of this article, please talk to an attorney. This article is for general information only and should not be relied upon solely when making a legal decision.

What is the difference between civil and criminal harassment in Texas Penal Code

Civil Harassment in Texas means, “an injury to a person based on their protected status”, such as disability or sex. Criminal harassment takes place if the harassing action causes fear for the victim and meets essential elements of the crime under Section 42.07.

Acts that qualify as Harassment in Texas

(Sec. 42.07. HARASSMENT.) defines harassment. Pursuant to Texas Penal Code, “(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another, the person:

(1) initiates communication and in the course of the communication makes a comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene;

(2) threatens, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the threat, to inflict bodily injury on the person or to commit a felony against the person, a member of the person’s family or household, or the person’s property;

(3) conveys, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the report, a false report, which is known by the conveyor to be false, that another person has suffered death or serious bodily injury;

(4) causes the telephone of another to ring repeatedly or makes repeated telephone communications anonymously or in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another;

(5) makes a telephone call and intentionally fails to hang up or disengage the connection;

(6) knowingly permits a telephone under the person’s control to be used by another to commit an offense under this section;

(7) sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another; or

(8) publishes on an Internet website, including a social media platform, repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to cause emotional distress, abuse, or torment to another person, unless the communications are made in connection with a matter of public concern.”

When reading this section, “(1) “Electronic communication” means a transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system. The term includes:

(A) a communication initiated through the use of electronic mail, instant message, network call, a cellular or other type of telephone, a computer, a camera, text message, a social media platform or application, an Internet website, any other Internet-based communication tool, or facsimile machine; and

(B) a communication made to a pager.”

Generally, electronic communications have an expansive definition, including an instant message network call (instant message), electronic mail instant message (email), wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence, almost any phone or computer type message that you can think of is encompassed in an electronic communication. And of course pictures include the transfer of signs, signals and electromagnetic photoelectronic or photo, images transferred by mail instant message network or by other means to ensure another person has suffered embarrassment, annoyance or alarm.

Harassment is generally a class B misdemeanor but can be a class A if the person meets certain pre-requisites, such as the person/actor has previously been convicted for harassment.

What are the different misdemeanor punishment levels in Texas?

Class A Misdemeanor: Penalties include a fine of no more than $4,000 and/or up to 1 year in a county jail.

Class B Misdemeanor: Penalties include a fine of no more than $2,000 and/or up to 180 days in a county jail.

Class C Misdemeanor: Penalty is restricted to a fine of no more than $500.

What are the types of felony that can be punished for harassment?

If the behavior engaged in is serious enough, the District Attorney may consider charges for Stalking, which is a felony (Sec. 42.072. STALKING). Stalking is defined as any repeated conduct (more than one time) that gives another person, or member of the person’s family, the reasonable fear that you might kill or seriously injure them, or damage their property (the person’s property). This is where the person is concerned about bodily injury or death.

Certainly other crimes include elements of harassment, such as assaultive offenses (causing serious bodily injury/imminent bodily injury/strangulation), and interference with emergency communications. Not every offense is automatically a felony, it depends on the nature and severity of the facts and the person’s criminal history. Sometimes, being tormented, embarrassed, or offended alone does not rise to a criminal offense, and that may be where you would talk to a law firm to consider civil practice and remedies. If a person has suffered death or serious bodily injury there is no doubt that the perpetrator had the intent to torment or embarrass another. This article suggests that a better way to consider harassment is for cases where the contact has been mostly or exclusively verbal.

What behavior is considered harassment in Texas?

A person commits harassment or an offense under this section (Sec. 42.07. HARASSMENT) if they commit behavior or acts intended for the purpose of harassing, abusing, annoying, humiliating or torturing another person.

Acts that qualify as Harassment in Texas

The acts that qualify as harassment in Texas are similar to the behaviors committed by the perpetrator against the victim or the person’s family or household, meaning, the verbal or physical harassment by means of phone, in person, or transmitting of photos whether by email or phone.

Types of harassment in Texas

Certainly the obvious forms of physical and verbal assault, to harassing phone calls from an individual are the traditional forms of harassment. But, many people also deal with harassment from their HOA’s or landlords or other businesses. It’s important to understand whether under practice and remedies code the law firm you’ve hired believes you have a cause of action against the other person or business who has harassed you.

Tell me the best way to deal with harassment in Texas

Thousands and even tens of thousands of harassment charges are charged in the United States every year. Texas has a higher than average instance of civil harassment charges in the workplace. If you feel that your boss, or an employee at work is harassing you, please talk to an attorney to better understand your rights and possible remedies. Most likely, the perpetrator will accuse you of making a false report. The best thing you can do is to carefully document the harassment, keeping detailed records, and talking to an attorney to understand your options.

Factors that increase harassment charges

The majority of harassing crimes are charged as class B misdemeanors under Texas harassment laws, but they may have increased penalties.

Certain acts will increase the harassment to a different, or additional criminal charge, such as stalking, but certain factors can also increase the harassment misdemeanor level from being a level “B” to being a level “A”, including:

(1) the actor has previously been convicted under this section; or

(2) the offense was committed under Subsection (7) sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another; or (8) publishes on an Internet website, including a social media platform, repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to cause emotional distress, abuse, or torment to another person, unless the communications are made in connection with a matter of public concern)

and:

(A) the offense was committed against a child under 18 years of age with the intent that the child:

(i) commit suicide; or

(ii) engage in conduct causing serious bodily injury to the child; or

(B) the actor has previously violated a temporary restraining order or injunction issued.

What is the penalty for a felony assault conviction?

The offense of harassment in Texas is class A misdemeanor and carry a penalty of: A criminal record can affect your chances of obtaining a job. In such cases it should also be considered by hiring a professional lawyer for your defense.

Steps to Take if Harassed in Texas

Harassment is hard to deal with and changes from person to person and case to case. You should try to stay calm, while being present of your surroundings. A brief list of suggestions are provided here:

1) Stay calm and be aware of your surroundings

2) If possible, try to remove yourself from the situation

3) Document everything that happens, including time, date, and location

4) Collect any evidence you may have, such as text messages or voicemails

5) Contact an attorney to discuss your legal options

6) File a police report

7) Get a restraining order, if necessary

8) Press charges, if desired

Tell me the reason behind harassment charges?

Various factors could make harassment charges more severe from a criminal perspective, as discussed earlier in this section. Criminal charges are created to protect victims and punish the perpetrator to “rehabilitate” the defendant in the hopes that they will be deterred in the future, or learn from their previous behavior through the court system/counseling.

Tell me the definition of harassment in Texas?

Harassment is harassing, embarrassing or alarming someone.

Penalties of Harassment in Texas

The penalties for harassment are set out by Texas code, and were discussed above. Generally, harassment will either be a Class B or Class A misdemeanor.

Keep your Harasser Away

The best way to deal with harassment in Texas is to avoid the harasser altogether. If you have been harassed, take the necessary steps to keep your harasser away from you. This could involve changing your phone number, avoiding places where you know the harasser will be, or getting a restraining order.

Sexual Offenses against the person brief discussion

This article is not generally intended to discuss sexual offenses, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, or acts that commit an ultimate sex crime against the victim under Texas Law, pursuant to CHAPTER 21. SEXUAL OFFENSES. In almost every case a perpetrator will with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass commit an ultimate sex act such as, sexual intercourse, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, and when established, the sheriff’s office will recommend charges to the district attorney’s office. If you are the victim of a sexual crime, you should be reporting instances to the police early and as often as they occur. The person a member or a household or the person’s representative is often present during police interviews to help the victim after the perpetrator has committed acts of abuse, torment, or embarrass (ment), through sexual acts. If you are the victim of a sexual offense, you should consider hiring a law firm (attorney) to represent you as a victim, especially when considering that the perpetrator will almost certainly have a criminal defense attorney under Texas Law.

What to do if I am being harassed online?

If you are being harassed online, you should take screenshots of the harassing messages and save them. You can also contact the website or social media platform where the harassment is taking place and report the user. In some cases, it may be possible to get a restraining order against the person who is harassing you.

Conclusion

If you are being harassed, it is important to take action to protect yourself and your rights. Harassment can be a serious matter, and it is important to seek legal help if you are the victim of harassment. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options, and can represent you in court if necessary. Thank you for reading.

If you’re looking for more information we also put together an article on how to file harassment charges that you can read for more help.