Stalking and harassment charges NC are serious allegations that can arise from a variety of circumstances. The stakes are high, and without a competent criminal defense lawyer fighting for and supporting your interests, you put your reputation and freedom on the line.
In 1991, North Carolina implemented stalking legislation that mandates the state to actively locate and prosecute suspected stalkers to protect victims from potential harm. However, as with any crime, the wrong people are sometimes targeted.
Emotions run high with a stalking charge. Typically, you know the person you’re accused of stalking and don’t think your actions are hurting them. The Wilkie Law Firm’s experience defending NC harassment charges in court means we are very familiar with the legal process and the laws surrounding stalking and harassment charges. North Carolina criminal defense lawyer Aden Wilkie ensures your rights are protected at all times.
What’s the Legal Definition of Harassment?
Harassment is defined by North Carolina Criminal Statute § 14-277.3A as “knowing conduct, including written or printed communication or transmission, telephone, cellular, or other wireless telephonic communication, facsimile transmission, pager messages or transmissions, answering machine or voicemail messages or transmissions, and electronic mail messages or other computerized or electronic transmissions directed at a specific person that torments, terrorizes, or terrifies that person and that serves no legitimate purpose.”
The defendant is guilty of stalking if he or she willfully, on more than one occasion, harasses another person without legal purpose while knowing that their actions would cause a reasonable person to fear for their own or a loved one’s safety or suffer substantial emotional distress for fear of injury, death, or continued harassment.
What is the Difference Between Harassment and Stalking Under North Carolina Law?
When it comes to harassment charges NC, it’s important to know how the terms “harassment” and “stalking” are distinguished from one another. While the two seemingly go hand-in-hand, they are not one and the same. In general, harassment is behavior towards another person that scares, torments, or intimidates them for no apparent reason. This behavior can be expressed verbally or in writing, by phone, internet, pager, voice mail, answering machine, or any other comparable methods.
Stalking is repeatedly following, being near physically, or otherwise harassing an individual in order to scare them about their safety or the safety of family or friends. This offense is also meant to cause emotional distress through the fear of death, harm, or ongoing harassment.
What Is Substantial Emotional Distress?
Another term that is important to understand is “substantial emotional distress.” North Carolina courts may examine each instance on a case-by-case basis, but it generally implies a high amount of mental suffering or distress that may or may not need counseling or treatment by a medical or other professional. Examples of substantial emotional distress include diminished quality or lost enjoyment of life, embarrassment or humiliation, post-traumatic stress disorder, or insomnia.
What Constitutes Harassment in North Carolina?
The term harassment is broad and encompasses a range of actions, as many offenders are considered unpredictable. Harassment or emotional abuse can take place in any form of communication, including writing, phone, fax, voicemail, email, and other electronic methods. However, courts will use broad discretion to consider practically any kind of stalker-victim communication.
Can Harassment be Domestic Violence?
North Carolina’s Domestic Violence statute protects a wide array of domestic violence victims. It defines domestic violence as any action that purposefully causes bodily injury or puts a person in fear of immediate bodily harm. Domestic violence in NC includes physical abuse such as shoving, slapping, striking, or choking. However, it also includes actions of emotional abuse, including threats, intimidation, and isolation as well as sexual abuse, economic abuse, and using a victim’s children to control them.
You can get a domestic violence protective order when you are physically or emotionally abused by someone while in a domestic relationship with them. A domestic relationship is considered to be anyone you are or were married to, dated, or lived with. It can be a friend, relative, roommate, parent, or even an in-law.
Legal Harassment By Ex-Spouse
To be punishable by law, harassing behavior must be repetitive and intended to injure the target or cause distress and alarm. Some harassing behaviors are recognized right away, while others are harder to notice. However, take note that harassment can happen at any time during or after your marriage. Common examples of harassing actions of an ex-spouse include insults, humiliation, threats to harm the victim or their loved ones, threats to expose private information, and threats of self-harm.
Harassment charges NC are more serious when your ex threatens you with physical violence or physically hurts you. This includes sexual harassment, which frequently coexists with physical violence in current or former domestic partnerships. Other forms of harassment by ex-spouse include:
- Releasing or threatening to reveal personal photographs or videos (revenge porn)
- Keeping an eye on someone via monitoring devices or phone location applications
- Attempting to get you fired by calling your employer
- Harassing a new partner
- Spreading rumors and insults about a victim
- Cyberstalking and online harassment via the internet and social media
DV Protective Order for Harassment
A protective order protects both men and women from physical, emotional, and verbal abuse, as well as stalking and harassment. The order tells an abuser to cease abusing someone right away or face the accompanying legal penalties. Any victim of a domestic violence crime, such as harassment charges NC, can ask for a protective order.
A protective order may also require an abuser to vacate a shared home, avoid contact with the victim, or even seek therapy or treatment. A protective order is granted on one of four different grounds. These include the infliction or attempting to inflict bodily injury on another person, committing sexual assault against someone, placing someone in immediate fear of bodily injury that inflicts severe emotional distress, and fear of continued harassment. Another recent statute in North Carolina allows victims of sexual assault, stalking, or harassment to get an instant protection order, known as a civil no-contact order.
This order keeps harassers from going to a victim’s workplace or contacting their family members. You do not need a “personal relationship” with the person to get this type of order.
Stalking / Harassment Penalties
A first offense of harassment charges NC is usually charged as a Class A1 misdemeanor, which is the most serious of all misdemeanors. Misdemeanors classified as Class A1 are punishable by up to one year in prison and hefty fines. If a protective order is already in effect at the time of the offense and leads to a violation of protective order, the charge is raised to a Class H felony. For someone with no prior criminal history, Class H crimes carry a sentence of 4 to 8 months in state prison. With a prior criminal record, your sentence could be increased to as much as 25 months.
If You've Been Accused of Harassment, Call Aden Wilkie for Experienced Defense Today
If you’ve been wrongfully accused of harassment charges NC, you’re probably worried about the future. You might be terrified of doing time in prison for a crime you didn’t commit. When it comes to harassment charges NC in a criminal case, the prosecution bears the burden of proof. This is good news for anyone accused of harassment charges NC and who equips themselves with the help of an experienced Jacksonville domestic crimes attorney like Aden Wilkie. Contact the Wilkie Law Firm today at (910) 333-9626 for a consultation. Our skilled North Carolina criminal defense attorneys will go over your case and plan a legal course of action to keep your future and reputation intact.