Harassment is found in the Pennsylvania Crimes Code at 18 Pa.C.S. Sec. 2709. Harassment is graded as either a summary offense or a Misdemeanor of the 3rd Degree (M3) depending on the conduct that occurred and what subsection of the statute you are charged under.
What Type of Conduct constitutes Harassment in Pennsylvania?
Many people think of Harassment as calling someone up on the phone everyday and cursing at them. Although the Pennsylvania harassment statute covers this type of conduct, it is more expansive and covers a variety of situations that annoy or alarm other people.
The following examples would be sufficient to convict an individual of Harassment in Pennsylvania when done with the intent to annoy or alarm the other person:
- slapping someone in the face;
- following your ex-boyfriend home to his house everyday after school;
- playing an audio recording of pig noises every time your ex-wife walks by your property;
- drawing a picture of a person performing sexual acts and labeling it with a classmate's name and posting it in the lounge of your apartment complex;
- repeatedly calling your teacher's house and hanging up the phone when she answers;
- repeatedly calling your ex-girlfriend every night at 2:00 A.M. when she does not want to talk to you anymore.
***Examples 1 and 2 would be graded as a summary offense. Example 3 could be graded as a summary or a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree. Examples 5 and 6 would be graded as an M3.***
This list is not exhaustive. Many other types of conduct can be considered harassment including any course of conduct that does not serve a legitimate purpose with the intent to annoy or alarm. Read section 2709 of the crimes code for the precise definition.
If you are charged with summary Harassment alone, the police officer will write you a citation. I highly recommend that you plead not guilty to the citation and contact an attorney. You do not want a summary Harassment conviction on your record. Harassment charges can be beat in court. In order to be convicted of summary Harassment, you must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Your case will be heard in your local Magisterial District Court if you are cited for summary Harassment. You are not entitled to a trial by jury. The maximum penalty for a summary Harassment conviction is 90 days in jail and/or a $300.00 fine. If you are charged, please do not loose sleep about going to jail. From my experience, rarely would a judge sentence you to jail on a summary charge unless extraordinary circumstances exist. Most judges are reasonable in this regard. The typical penalty for a summary Harassment conviction would be a fine. You will also be responsible to pay court costs. Nevertheless, you still do not want this conviction on your record. In my judgment, it is worth the effort to fight the charge in court.
Harassment can also be charged as a lesser offense in many misdemeanor and felony criminal prosecutions. For instance, if you face Simple Assault charges you will likely be charged with summary Harassment as well. Harassment is a fallback charge for the police officer if the Simple Assault charge is dismissed. If you are charged with summary Harassment as a secondary charge to Simple Assault you will be given a preliminary hearing date and the case will proceed pursuant to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure for court cases. In the past, my office has been able to have the Simple Assault charge dismissed and my client was permitted to plead to summary Harassment or another summary offense such as Disorderly Conduct*.
If you are charged with Harassment as a Misdemeanor of the 3rd Degree, your case will be subject to the Pennsylvania Rules of Criminal Procedure for court cases. The maximum penalty for Harassment charge as an M3 is 1 year incarceration and a $2500.00 fine. Again, do not be alarmed by the jail time. This is the maximum penalty.
Contact my office if you are charged with M3 Harassment. Many times this charge can be dropped down to summary harassment or taken to trial with a resulting NOT guilty verdict*.
As mentioned above, Harassment is usually charged as a fallback in a Simple Assault prosecution. This is because the act of hitting someone or slapping someone can constitute Harassment or Simple Assault. Harassment is a less serious charge than Simple assault. An easy way to distinguish between the two crimes is that assault usually involves some type of bodily injury that occurs to the victim. For instance, if two guys get in a fight at a bar, and one gives the other a black eye, bodily injury has occurred and Simple Assault is the appropriate charge. However, if we change the fact pattern and one of the men in the bar slaps the other in the face with an open hand and there are no apparent injuries, summary Harassment would be the appropriate charge.
If you or a loved one has been charged with Harassment, contact my office at (610) 299-0295 to discuss your case. My office offers free consultations on all Harassment charges whether it is charged as a summary or a misdemeanor.
*Past results do not guarantee results in future cases.