Electronic Harassment Could Result in a Misdemeanor or Felony Charge

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Electronic Harassment Could Result in a Misdemeanor or Felony Charge

In light of the global COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, many people are turning to the Internet and electronics to stay in touch with each other. Relying on apps and online services for communication presents unique opportunities – and challenges. If a person is accused of harassment through electronic communications (IL 720-5/26.5-3), they could face Class B Misdemeanor charges. The best thing to do if facing harassment through electronic communications charges is to contact a criminal defense lawyer.

Defining harassment through electronic communications
To qualify for this charge, a person’s actions must occur through electronic devices. Illinois Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/) includes phones, cell phones, computers, tablets, smart TVs, pagers, and more to be electronic devices. Harassment falls into the following categories:

  • Obscene comments, requests, suggestions, or proposals intended to offend
  • Intentionally interrupting someone else’s phone or Internet service
  • Threatening a person or their family members
  • Sending a file that prevents the receiver from using their electronic devices
  • Allowing someone else to use your device for any of the above actions

One study found that 59 percent of teenagers have experienced online harassment. But the practice isn’t limited to younger Internet users. Another study found that thanks to the anonymity provided by the Internet, many adults also experience harassment online. The key to these charges is proving the defendant’s intent. If the intention is to cause emotional distress or offense, it counts as harassment.

Class B Misdemeanor
Harassment through electronic communications is a Class B Misdemeanor. It is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, up to $1,500 in fines, or a combination of the two. Class B Misdemeanor charges also remain on permanent records and come up during criminal background checks.

If convicted, the severity of the charges is up to the judge at sentencing. Working with a criminal defense attorney from the start is important. Your attorney may address issues like free speech, intention, and criminal history when preparing your defense.

Class 4 Felony
People charged with harassment through electronic communications three or more times in the span of ten years will likely be charged with a Class 4 Felony instead of a Class B Misdemeanor. A Class 4 Felony charge could also apply if:

  • The defendant has been charged with harassing the same party through electronic communications before
  • The victim has an order of protection against the defendant
  • The defendant is current out on bail or under probation
  • The victim is under 18 years old and the defendant is over 18 years old
  • The defendant threatened the victim or the victim’s family with death

Class 4 Felonies are punishable by up to $25,000 in fines and between one and three years in jail. The minimum amount of time a person convicted of a Class 4 Felony can spend in jail is one year.

If you or someone you know is charged with harassment through electronic communications, contact Richard at Fenbert and Associates for a free consultation.