Finding yourself facing a charge of menacing or harassment can be a daunting experience, especially if you aren’t quite sure what you’re being charged with. Oftentimes, people confuse harassment and menacing to be the same thing, but they have distinct differences from each other. Learn everything there is to know about these two charges so that you can better discuss legal options with your attorney if charged.
While certain states define the term differently, the commonly used definition of harassment is words or behaviors that threaten, intimidate, infringe on, or demean another person. Any form of the above that causes an unwelcome disturbance in another person’s life, along with emotional distress, could be considered harassment. One key aspect of harassment is that while your actions are intentional, the purpose of those actions is not to cause the negative effect the receiving party feels.
By learning the common types of harassment, you can have a better understanding of what you are being charged with when faced with one of the below. While most harassment charges are misdemeanors, they could turn into felonies in a serious enough situation:
Sexual harassment is any unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual behavior, or verbal and physical actions of a sexual nature that are not wanted. Whether it’s in the workplace or simply on the street, sexual harassment is a serious issue around the world.
While harassment typically doesn’t involve action and is mostly verbal, there are forms of physical harassment. Actions such as intimidating another person by placing a hand on them, touching another person in a way with sexual undertones, inappropriate contact, and more are all examples of physical harassment.
Any form of constant verbal berating from another person, including unwanted behaviors or actions as well, that cause a person to feel embarrassed, insulted, or annoyed could be considered to be psychological harassment.
On the other hand, menacing refers to physical behavior that represents an intention to put another person in imminent fear of injury or death. In many cases, menacing and certain forms of assault are used interchangeably, though not always. Something as simple as verbally yelling at a person while approaching them in a fighting stance could be considered menacing behavior. It is typically a misdemeanor charge, though some forms of menacing can come with a felony charge.
While being faced with a charge of menacing is a distressing experience, learning what exactly you are being charged with can help. Depending on the severity of the act, menacing can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, and ranges from third-degree to first-degree. There are three primary forms of menacing that a person may experience:
The most common charge associated with menacing is misdemeanor menacing. Any basic form of menacing where a person acts with intent to cause harm and fear in an individual will likely be classified as misdemeanor menacing. In most cases, misdemeanor menacing will be anything short of showing a weapon to the person who is being intimidated.
Felony menacing carries a much more serious charge in the form of added jail time or larger fines. Felony menacing is the same as a misdemeanor menacing charge, but the person committing the act typically shows or handles a deadly weapon, has an increased threat towards the victim, already has a legal history, or is violating the law already such as not listening to a restraining order.
Finally, federal menacing is the third form of menacing that a person may be charged with. While this is more of a rare form of menacing, a person who threatens another across state lines, through a telephone, or through social media may fall under federal jurisdiction and could be charged with federal menacing. This will come with a heftier fine and federal jail time, potentially, which makes it one of the more serious charges.
Building an effective legal defense together with your lawyer requires an understanding regarding what you’re being charged with. Harassment and menacing are both serious charges which can result in jailtime or fines. If charged with one of these crimes, don’t hesitate to contact an accredited criminal defense attorney in your area who can help the charges get dropped or reduced.