Criminal Harassment of Your Spouse Can Land You In Jail
For Colorado Springs divorce and criminal defense attorneys, it is not common but nor is it unusual to receive calls from upset, confused, and worried clients who exclaim in disbelief that “my spouse charged me with harassment!” They may not understand what they did to warrant such an accusation or be angry that their spouse called the Colorado police and asked for their arrest. If you find yourself on the receiving end of criminal harassment charges in Colorado Springs, you need to act carefully and quickly to protect your rights. It is critical that you educate yourself as to the law and that you avoid any further actions or statements that could get you in even more trouble. The best way to accomplish all of these objectives is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
What Criminal Harassment Is – And What It Isn’t
Annoying your spouse is not a crime. Being rude to them won’t land you in jail, and acting like a jerk isn’t against the law. But Colorado law recognizes that some behaviors towards others, including between spouses, cross the line from obnoxious and upsetting to threatening and dangerous.
If you cross that line and now you find your spouse is charging you with harassment, you could face serious criminal charges that come with severe penalties upon conviction, including the potential for a long time behind bars.
Even if you don’t think you did anything criminal, Colorado Springs prosecutors will vigorously pursue your conviction if they believe you took actions or made statements that put your spouse in danger or made them reasonably fear for their safety.
Under Colorado’s primary harassment law, C.R.S.18-9-111 (also known as “Kiana Arellano’s law”), it is a criminal offense to engage in several different kinds of physical behavior and communications in person, on the phone, and over the internet. If you do any of the following “with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm” your spouse, our local prosecutors can charge and convict you for the crime of harassment:
- Physical contact. It is harassment (and can be battery as well) to strike, shove, kick, or otherwise touch a person or subject him to physical contact.
- Obscene language or gestures. Directing obscene language or making an obscene gesture to or at another person in a public place can be harassment.
- Stalking. As discussed in greater detail below, following a person in or around a public place can result in harassment charges.
- Online harassment. It is harassment to communicate with a person through the internet or email in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage or make an obscene comment, request, suggestion, or proposal using a computer.
- Phone harassment. Making a telephone call or causing a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not there’s a conversation, with no purpose of legitimate communication, is harassment.
- Fighting words. Repeatedly insulting, taunting, challenging, or making communications in an offensively coarse language in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response is harassment
Stalking is Particularly Serious
Even though Colorado’s general harassment law covers stalking, its tendency to escalate into more violent offenses led to Colorado’s legislature to treat it much more severely than other forms of harassment. As the state’s stalking law puts it:
“Because stalking involves highly inappropriate intensity, persistence, and possessiveness, it entails great unpredictability and creates great stress and fear for the victim. Stalking involves severe intrusions on the victim’s personal privacy and autonomy, with an immediate and long-lasting impact on the quality of life as well as risks to security and safety of the victim and persons close to the victim, even in the absence of express threats of physical harm.”
C.R.S. 18-9-111, 4(a)
Under Colorado law, prosecutors can charge and convict you for stalking if you knowingly engage in:
- Repeated conduct,
- That involves a credible threat and/or,
- Causes the victim severe emotional distress.
Examples of repeated behavior towards your spouse that could result in a stalking charge include:
- Following your spouse and showing up wherever they are.
- Sending unwanted gifts, letters, cards, or emails.
- Damaging their home, car, or other property.
- Monitoring their phone calls or computer use.
- Using technology or other tools to track your spouse’s movements.
- Driving by or loitering in front of their home, school, or work.
- Threatening to hurt your spouse, members of their family, their friends, or pets.
- Posting false or private information or spreading rumors about your spouse on the Internet, in a public place, or by word of mouth.
Reflective of the seriousness of stalking, a first stalking conviction is a class 4 felony in Colorado that comes with a potential one to a three-year prison sentence and fines from $1,000 – $100,000 for the first offense.
“My Spouse Charged Me With Harassment!” How Your Criminal Harassment Lawyer Can Defend You Against The Allegations
If your spouse accuses you of harassment and prosecutors believe that the allegation is credible and supported by the evidence, they will seek your conviction. Even if your spouse later decides to “drop the charges,” prosecutors can still pursue the case against you.
Prosecutors must prove many elements of the crime of harassment beyond a reasonable doubt to obtain a conviction. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can defend you by challenging the prosecutor’s evidence and raising several defenses, including:
- You didn’t make the alleged communication to your spouse.
- You didn’t threaten or contact your spouse.
- You had no intention to annoy, harm, or alarm your spouse.
- Your communication was not obscene.
- Your communication was not patently offensive.
Call Today To Discuss Your Harassment Charges With a Seasoned, Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney
Harassment charges can lead to time behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, and a stain on your reputation that can impact your job and your relationships with your children, friends, and colleagues. If your spouse accused you of harassment or stalking, it is critical that you contact an experienced Colorado Springs criminal harassment attorney as soon as possible.
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