Dupage County Lawyers
 

Harassment and Stalking

There is a fine line between pulling a prank or trying to settle a score with someone and what Illinois law considers to be harassment.  It is a line you don’t want to cross.  If you are arrested and convicted of harassment or stalking, you will be facing jail and fines and will be saddled with a criminal record that will negatively impact your ability to find a decent job, housing, or relationship.

If you have been charged with these offenses, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney who is fully dedicated to protecting your interests and knows what it takes to reach a favorable outcome.  At Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., our experienced and compassionate Illinois defense lawyers provide aggressive representation for clients facing harassment or stalking charges. We know the system and offer a free consultation to examine every aspect of your situation to find ways to reduce your charges or have them dismissed.

Here is some information you should know if you’re charged with harassment or stalking.

What Constitutes Harassment and Stalking?

Harassment is a term used to describe activity that is considered overly aggressive, intimidating or threatening toward another person. Illinois law defines harassment as making an obscene or indecent comment or request to another with the intention to offend, threaten, or annoy them. Harassment can be done through face-to-face contact or by other communications, such as telephone, email or text. You can even be charged with harassment for activities such as calling someone repeatedly and hanging up.

Stalking in Illinois is defined as engaging in conduct that would cause a reasonable person to:

(1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or

(2) suffer other emotional distress.

This involves activities such as following someone or placing them under surveillance at least twice; threatening to harm, sexually assault, confine or restrain that person; or causing them to fear that you will do one of those things to them or a family member.  Placing someone under surveillance means remaining present outside the person’s school, place of employment, vehicle, residence or other place occupied by the person or placing an electronic tracking device on the person or the person’s property.

If you are asked not to follow someone but you keep doing it, the law saws there is reason for that person to feel threatened.  Examples of stalking include remaining outside someone’s home for longer than ten minutes at one time or for longer than 30 minutes over a period of five or more visits in a 24-hour period.

Harassing Communications

In these days, when electronic devices are so commonplace, it is also possible to be accused of cyberstalking.  This occurs if you knowingly on at least two separate occasions use electronic communication directed at a specific person that you should know would cause a reasonable person to:

(1) fear for his or her safety or the safety of a third person; or

(2) suffer other emotional distress.

“Electronic communication” means any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric or photo-optical system. This includes e-mail, instant message, text message, or voice mail transmissions made through telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager.

Penalties

The Illinois legislature takes harassment and stalking seriously and has passed laws to curb these activities. Conviction for harassment is a Class B Misdemeanor, with a possible jail term of six months and a fine of up to $2,500.  If you are convicted again, it becomes a Class A Misdemeanor, with a possible sentence of one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Under some circumstances, a harassment charge can be a Class 4 Felony, with a possible prison sentence of up to three years and a fine of up to $25,000.

Stalking and cyberstalking are both Class 4 felonies. If you are convicted a second or subsequent time or if you are convicted of aggravated stalking, this becomes a Class 3 felony.  Aggravated stalking occurs if you harm or try to restrain the person you are accused of stalking or if the stalking is done in violation of a restraining order. A Class 3 felony conviction could result in a possible prison term of five years and a fine of up to $25,000.

In addition, depending on the facts, a stalker might also be charged with other crimes, such as trespassing, intimidation of a witness, breaking and entering, etc.

If you are facing any of these charges, you should speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.

Defending Harassment and Stalking

Deciding what is and is not harassment is not always clear.  Sometimes people take a joke the wrong way and get insulted, or they get upset about something that was not intended to be harmful. Illinois law looks at intent in these situations.  If you had no intention of harassing or stalking and felt the behavior or communication was legitimate, you may have a defense.

The first amendment right to free speech may offer a defense to some harassment charges, as long as they do not cross the line into criminal conduct.

The requirement that a reasonable person would have had to feel threatened in these situations can also be a defense, if you can show that the so-called victim was hypersensitive and mistook the offending behavior for harassment.

Criminal Attorneys Aggressive In Your Defense

Every harassment and stalking situation is different, with varying underlying facts and circumstances. If you have been charged with any of these offenses, you need legal counsel to advise you on the best defense for your individual case.

The Illinois seasoned harassment defense attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd., are skilled trial lawyers with extensive experience handling complex criminal cases. Our team is trusted and respected in the community. When we take on a criminal case, we gather information quickly and look at all viable defense options. Based on the facts of the case, we make a decision about a legal strategy and pursue it vigorously.

We know the judges and the court system and will aggressively explore every avenue for your defense. We work hand in hand with our clients, explaining all elements of the case and the processes involved in an effective defense strategy. Our goal is always to minimize the negative impact of the situation and to focus on protecting your freedoms, liberties and rights.

Don’t delay — contact us at 630-305-0222 for a free consultation if you have been accused of harassment or stalking.  We represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, and the greater Chicagoland area.

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