Getting charged with harassment in Colorado is a criminal offense. Although it may seem insignificant, a police officer can arrest you if they believe your actions fall within the harassment laws. You may also face a conviction, which can lead to jail time and fines, tarnishing your reputation and staying on your criminal record.
If you are charged with harassment, having an experienced criminal defense lawyer can lessen your chances of conviction and all the negative consequences that come with it.
What is harassment in Colorado?
In Colorado, harassment charges under C.R.S. 18-9-111 are criminal. That means you can be arrested, convicted, and even jailed if a judge finds that you committed actions that fall within the harassment statute.
The harassment statute is comprehensive and encompasses many forms of conduct. But, as with any criminal charges, a prosecutor must prove certain elements. There are two elements a prosecutor must prove for harassment: (1) that your state of mind at the time of the offense was intended to annoy, alarm, or harass another person, and (2) that you committed an action that falls within the statute.
It’s important to note that you can be convicted of harassment even if you never physically touched the victim so long as you intended to annoy, alarm, or harass the person.
Below are examples of conduct that may fall within the harassment statute:
- Touching the victim, either by striking, shoving, kicking, or any other physical contact
- Making obscene gestures in public or speaking vulgar statements or remarks to the victim in a public place. In these cases, the action must be directed at the victim.
- Following the victim in a public place
- Using the telephone or another form of communication (emails, text messages, or other social media) to threaten bodily injury, damage to property, or making other comments, requests, or suggestions, that are obscene
- Calling the victim and causing the victim’s phone to ring repeatedly. It doesn’t matter if the victim doesn’t pick up and no words have been exchanged. The act of repeated phone calls without the purpose of a legitimate conversation can be enough.
- Invading the victim’s privacy, by communicating or making communication attempts that interfere with the victim’s use and enjoyment of their home or when they are in another home or on private property
- Repeated insults, challenges, communications, and other offensive language likely to provoke a violent or disorderly reaction in another person
Obscene is used throughout the harassment statute. It is defined under the law. Again, it is a broad definition, meaning that much conduct can fall under the term “obscene,” (for example, description of sexual acts, even if normal or perverted, actual or simulated).
Since the prosecution is responsible for proving that you committed specific conduct intending to annoy, alarm, or harass another, there must be physical evidence against you. Usually, this includes eyewitness accounts, telephone records, messages, and other recorded communications.
Consquences of Harassment
Colorado changed the penalties for harassment on March 1, 2022.
There are several instances when a harassment conviction is a Class 1 misdemeanor. This can lead to fines as high as $1,000 and up to 364 days in jail.
- When a defendant is motivated by protected grounds, whether actual or perceived, including the victim’s race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, physical or mental disability, or sexual orientation
- When a defendant physically touches the victim by striking, shoving, kicking, or another form of physical contact
- When a defendant follows a person in a public place
At times, the consequences for harassment will fall under a petty offense or a Class 2 misdemeanor. The penalties aren’t as severe as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
If a person directs obscene language at the victim or if they make obscene gestures at another person in a public place, then the defendant can face up to 10 days in jail and $300 in fines. Their actions are deemed a petty offense.
Any other harassment cases will fall under a Class 2 misdemeanor. This includes up to 120 days of jail and $750 in fines.
Charged with Harassment?
Many situations can escalate into harassment charges. As in any criminal case, unless you plead guilty, only a judge can convict you of harassment. Oftentimes, most cases are determined by whether the prosecution can show intent. Having a knowledgeable harassment defense attorney who will advocate on your behalf is critical, especially when jail time hangs in the balance. You can schedule a consultation with our harassment defense lawyers at no cost by calling our Boulder, Colorado office at 303-586-6912.