A person is guilty of harassment if they do any of the actions below when they intend for the action to “annoy, harass, or alarm” another person. The prosecutor must prove that the defendant intended to annoy, harass, or alarm the other person, otherwise it is not harassment. In addition to having this intent, to be guilty the defendant must:
- Strike, shove, kick or otherwise touch the other person, or subject the other person to physical contact.
- Say something obscene, or make an obscene gesture toward the other person, in a public place.
- Follow the other person in a public place.
- Threaten bodily injury, threaten property damage, harass, or make an obscene proposal to another person by way of telephone, text messaging, or computer.
- Call someone, even a single time, when there is no legitimate purpose of conversation.
- Repeatedly communicate with someone at their home at inconvenient hours, such that it interferes with the other person’s privacy.
- Repeatedly insult, taunt, challenge or speak to the other person in a way that is likely to provoke violence.
As you can see, it doesn’t take much in order to be guilty of harassment. For example, simply showing a person your middle finger in public could be considered Harassment under number 2 above.
Harassment is often treated as the lesser version of Assault in the criminal justice system. The “strike, shove, or kick” provision in number 1 above sounds much like Assault. The major difference is that Assault requires that there be an injury that results from the offensive contact. The injury needed for it to be considered Assault can be nothing more than pain. If there is no injury, or pain, then the act would likely be charged as Harassment. It is common for Assault charges to be reduced to Harassment for plea agreement purposes.
Penalties for Harassment in Colorado
In Colorado, harassment is a class 3 misdemeanor, and therefore carries a possible jail sentence of up to 6 months. The defendant can also be fined up to $750. However, if the prosecutor can prove that the act of harassment was done to intimidate another person because of their race or religion, then it becomes elevated to a class 1 misdemeanor, and the possible jail sentence increases to 18 months in county jail. Likewise, the possible fine increases to $1,000.