judge about to pound gavelThis is the fourth post in a series of articles which will discuss dealing with Peoria, Illinois charges of stalking and harassment. My last article addressed what constitutes “harassment” in the state of Illinois. It was important to discuss this topic because it is often misunderstood. Most people do not understand what conduct constitutes harassment. The crime of harassment carries criminal penalties and can affect your ability to obtain employment, housing, and more. In this post I will discuss why harassment is considered a crime to help individuals better understand this area of the law. If you or someone you know needs assistance, contact my office today to speak with a criminal defense lawyer.

Illinois law protects people from being made to feel as if they must fear for their safety

Harassment is considered a crime in Illinois because it undermines the fundamental principles of safety and the right to live free from fear. In legal terms, harassment involves engaging in persistent, unwanted behavior with an intent to offend or intimidate another person. It is true that there are differing viewpoints on whether certain conduct should constitute harassment. However, by criminalizing certain behavior, the law is intending to prevent the potential harm that it can inflict on victims. Beyond the harm it can cause individually, harassment can also disrupt workplaces or other environments intended to create a sense of safety. The law criminalizing harassment reinforces the broader societal value of personal security and respect for one another. The law is also intended to protect against escalation of behavior that could lead to other crimes. It is common for harassment to be the first in a series of charges someone receives. By criminalizing the communication first, the law is seeking to prevent further damage of physical violence.

Now that we have established why harassment is a crime, if you are arrested with charges of harassing another, it is important to take it seriously. These matters can differ based on the specific facts of the situation and the way the victim felt because of the harassing conduct. If charged with harassment, you will also likely be subject to a restraining order. If you violate a restraining order, you can be convicted of a class “A” misdemeanor, in addition to the conviction of harassment. This type of conviction can result in a prison sentence up to one year. Harassment is a class “B” misdemeanor with penalties of up to 180 days in jail. Aggravating circumstances can cause the offense to be enhanced resulting in a felony conviction. Any type of criminal conviction stays on your record permanently and may cause lifelong consequences.

Accusations of harassment are not a “private matter” between two parties

It is not uncommon for harassment accusations to be made against a partner or spouse in the context of a break-up. People often make the mistake of thinking it is a private matter between two parties when there are accusations of harassment. However, once you are arrested, the prosecuting office is the only authority to decide whether they will proceed with a trial. The State has an interest in protecting victims of threats or violence that could result in more serious crimes. You must proactively defend yourself if charged. If you seek to persuade the victim to drop the allegations against you, you could face additional charges. It is a crime to interfere with the reporting of domestic violence and to do so could result in additional prison time. It is crucial to hire an attorney with criminal defense experience to understand the legal process ahead of you.

For example, Bob harassed his estranged wife by excessively calling her and approached her at her place of residence. If she felt in fear for her life, Bob could be charged with harassment and domestic violence. If Bob attempts to take his ex-wife’s phone, this conduct could also result in an additional charge of interference with reporting of a crime. Each of these charges can result in jail time, and Bob could be forced to serve them consecutively. Additionally, under federal law, Bob’s conviction of domestic violence prevents him from ever owning a firearm.

I am experienced in handling harassment charges and my office will act immediately if you have been arrested. I am a former prosecutor and devote my practice to defending the rights of accused parties. Contact my office today to speak with a Peoria criminal defense lawyer. We also serve the cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington. I serve the counties of Fulton, Knox, LaSalle, Marshall, Mason, McLean, Putnam, Rock Island, Shuyler, Stark, Tazewell and Woodford. I also handle federal cases in Urbana.