woman being harassed by group of men at work

What’s the Difference Between Civil and Criminal Harassment in TX?

There are many reasons for instituting laws. Each law is intended to help maintain order in society by punishing specific types of behavior. Since these behaviors go against the laws in place, we refer to them as “criminal.” Some laws are put in place to prevent people from conducting themselves in an unfavorable manner or from threatening others. Criminal harassment laws do just that.  But what is the difference between criminal harassment and civil harassment

What Behavior Constitutes Harassment in Texas?

Under Texas law, harassment is defined as “an act meant to annoy, torment, embarrass, abuse, alarm, or harass another person.” The act in question consists of specific behaviors in order for it to be considered a crime. 

Alternately, civil harassment under state law is defined as “an injury to a person based on their protected status.” This includes things such as race, religion, sexual orientation, nation of origin, gender, and disability. 

Examples of Criminal Harassment in Texas

While not comprehensive, some actions that constitute criminal harassment in the state of Texas include:

  • The threat of physical harm to someone
  • The threat to commit a felony against someone, one of their family members, or their property
  • Calling someone repeatedly with the intention of annoying them
  • Sending threatening, abusive, or annoying electronic communications
  • False reporting that someone has been severely injured or has died
  • Asking someone to perform a sexual favor or other obscene action

In order for one’s actions to rise to the level of harassment in Texas, his or her actions must be conducted in a manner likely to cause alarm to the individual who receives the communication. This does not include individuals acting in a manner that could look like harassment if they do not have the intention to alarm the other individual. For example, a telemarketer making cold calls does not rise to the level of harassment. 

Consequences of Criminal Harassment in Texas

When someone is convicted of criminal harassment in Texas, they will face specific consequences. These penalties can be issued even for first-time offenders. A first-time conviction for criminal harassment could result in up to six months in jail and fines of up to $2,000. Those convicted of criminal harassment for the second time can face up to one year in jail and up to $4,000 in fines. This is because a second offense is considered a Class A misdemeanor.

In addition to these penalties, those who have been convicted of criminal harassment can receive a restraining order, barring them from having any contact with the individual who filed for it. Should they violate such an order they will face even more serious penalties. 

The Attorneys at Ceja Law Firm Help Those in Houston Who Have Been Charged with Criminal Harassment

If you or a loved one has been charged with criminal harassment, you should take it very seriously. A conviction could result in several penalties that can impact the rest of your life. Consulting with a knowledgeable and experienced Houston criminal defense attorney can help to inform you of your rights and walk you through the legal process. 

At Ceja Law Firm PLLC, we understand the serious nature of such a criminal charge and the ways in which it can affect you. That’s why we will work to help you obtain the best possible outcome. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!