Harassment and aggravated harassment are commonly charged crimes in New York, with penalties ranging from probation to significant jail time. Aggravated harassment involves putting another person in fear of being physically injured. If you’ve been charged with aggravated harassment, you could be facing a wide range of consequences. 

Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney on your side can help you work to minimize the impact the charges will have on you and your loved ones. Attorney Michael A. Arbeit is an experienced criminal defense attorney prepared to defend your legal rights. After carefully reviewing your case, he will help you understand the charges against you so you can make informed decisions and pursue the best possible outcome in your case. 

What Is Aggravated Harassment in New York?

In its most basic form, harassment occurs when one person engages in contact directed at another person with the intent to annoy, harass, or alarm the other person. Generally, harassment includes physical contact with another person. However, a person doesn’t have to touch another person physically to face harassment charges. 

New York has several harassment statutes with varied penalties based on the specific charge and circumstances of your case. Aggravated harassment in the first and second degrees carries more serious penalties than the charge of harassment. 

Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree

Aggravated harassment in the second degree occurs when a person intends to harass, alarm, threaten, or annoy another person by engaging in one or more of the following:

  • Striking someone to cause them injury
  • Attempting to strike, threatening to strike, or actually striking a person based on their color, race, religion, or on another discriminatory basis
  • Making phone calls without the intention of legitimate communication with the recipient (even if no actual conversation happened)
  • Communicating a threat of harm to another person, their family, or their property, either anonymously or otherwise by mail, phone, or other written communication, or causing the communication to take place

Prosecutors can also charge a person with aggravated harassment in the second degree if they commit harassment in the first degree and have previously been convicted of harassment of any kind within the last decade.

Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree

Aggravated harassment in the first degree is a Class E felony and it is commonly called a “hate crime.” In order to convict a person of aggravated harassment in the first degree, prosecutors must prove that the defendant intended to harass, annoy, alarm, or threaten another person by engaging in the following types of conduct:

  • Causing damages over $50 to a place used primarily for religious reasons
  • Setting a cross on fire in public view
  • Placing a noose or swastika on private or public property without the property owner’s permission

Additionally, a person can face charges for aggravated harassment in the first degree if they commit aggravated harassment in the second degree and have a prior conviction for aggravated harassment within the previous 10 years. 

The Penalties of an Aggravated Harassment Conviction

Aggravated harassment in the second degree is considered a class A misdemeanor in New York and carries a potential prison sentence of up to one year. Aggravated harassment in the first degree is considered a more serious Class E felony. This charge carries a prison sentence of up to four years. If the defendant has been convicted of a felony within the last ten years, they can face an even longer prison sentence. 

Potential Defenses to Aggravated Harassment Charges

Simply sending a threatening text or voice message could be enough to be charged with aggravated harassment. If you are facing this charge, hiring an attorney as quickly as possible can help your attorney begin working to get the charges against you dropped. There are several potential defenses to aggravated harassment. A skilled attorney will carefully review the facts in your case to determine the most effective legal defenses. 

Constitutional Legal Defenses

The U.S. Constitution protects our right to free speech and freedom of association. New York courts regularly uphold a person’s right to say what they believe, even if it is offensive to other people. The New York Court of Appeals has even stuck down some portions of the state’s aggravated harassment laws, declaring them to be unconstitutional. 

Your attorney may be able to successfully argue that the content of your communication used to charge you with aggravated harassment is protected by the first amendment. As a result, you may be able to successfully have your case dismissed for constitutional reasons.

Domestic Violence Defense 

A significant number of harassment charge cases are intertwined with domestic violence allegations. Harassment charges based on allegations of domestic abuse can be challenging for prosecutors to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. In these situations, one party may be more likely to fabricate or exaggerate incidents due to the emotionally charged nature of the relationship. 

Domestic partners sometimes have ulterior motives to lie about the defendant. If you’ve been falsely accused of harassment by a romantic partner, family member, or roommate, your attorney may be able to investigate the case and gather evidence showing the accusations are false. 

Lack of Evidence Against You

As with any criminal charge, prosecutors must prove every element of the crime of aggravated harassment beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. Your defense attorney can investigate the prosecutor’s case and poke holes in their narrative, showing they can’t prove every element of the crime. If the prosecution lacks enough evidence to justifiably charge you, your attorney can quickly file a motion to dismiss your case. If successfully, the judge will grant the motion and dismiss your case. 

Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Long Island & New York

Prosecutors take the crime of aggravated harassment seriously. If you’ve been charged with aggravated harassment in New York, you could be facing jail time, fines, and other serious penalties. Working with a skilled criminal defense attorney is crucial. Don’t hesitate to contact Michael A. Arbeit, P.C to schedule a free case evaluation with a skilled criminal defense attorney in Long Island.

Michael A. Arbeit, P.C. assists clients throughout Long Island, including Nassau County, Suffolk County, Garden City, Freeport, and New York, including Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Staten Island, and The Bronx.