In Texas, harassment is a crime that covers a wide array of conduct. If it is alleged that you have communicated with someone by telephone, email, instant message, fax machine, pager, or any other electronic means with the intent to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarass” someone else, you can be charged with harrassment. This offense includes any communication that is obscene, threatens bodily injury, or threatens the commission of a felony against another or the property of another. Also, you can be charge with harassment if you knowingly communicate a false report to another person that someone has died, or suffered serious bodily injury. Finally, under the statute, you can be charged with telephone harassment if it’s alleged that you
have made repeated hang-up calls or repeatedly make anonymous calls with the intent to harass. You can also be charged with telephone harassment if you knowingly allow someone else to do any of these things with your phone.
Harassment is a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail, and up to a $2,000 fine. If you’ve previously been convicted of harassment, a second or subsequenst offense can be enhanced to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a penalty range of up to 1 year in the county jail, and up to a $4,000 fine.
If you’ve been charged with harassment or telephone harassment, you could be looking at serious jail time.
Texas Penal Code Section 42.07. HARASSMENT. (a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another, he:
(1) initiates communication by telephone, in writing, or by electronic communication and in the course of the communication makes a comment, request, suggestion, or proposal that is obscene;
(2) threatens, by telephone, in writing, or by electronic communication, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the threat, to inflict bodily injury on the person or to commit a felony against the person, a member of his family or household, or his property;
(3) conveys, in a manner reasonably likely to alarm the person receiving the report, a false report, which is known by the conveyor to be false, that another person has suffered death or serious bodily injury;
(4) causes the telephone of another to ring repeatedly or makes repeated telephone communications anonymously or in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another;
(5) makes a telephone call and intentionally fails to hang up or disengage the connection;
(6) knowingly permits a telephone under the person’s control to be used by another to commit an offense under this section; or
(7) sends repeated electronic communications in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend another.
(b) In this section:
(1) “Electronic communication” means a transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system. The term includes:
(A) a communication initiated by electronic mail, instant message, network call, or facsimile machine; and
(B) a communication made to a pager.
(2) “Family” and “household” have the meaning assigned by Chapter 71, Family Code.
(3) “Obscene” means containing a patently offensive description of or a solicitation to commit an ultimate sex act, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, or anilingus, or a description of an excretory function.
(c) An offense under this section is a Class B misdemeanor, except that the offense is a Class A misdemeanor if the actor has previously been convicted under this section.
Acts 1973, 63rd Leg., p. 883, ch. 399, Sec. 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1974. Amended by Acts 1983, 68th Leg., p. 2204, ch. 411, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1983; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 10, Sec. 1, eff. March 19, 1993; Acts 1993, 73rd Leg., ch. 900, Sec. 1.01, eff. Sept. 1, 1994; Acts 1995, 74th Leg., ch. 657, Sec. 1, eff. June 14, 1995; Acts 1999, 76th Leg., ch. 62, Sec. 15.02(d), eff. Sept. 1, 1999; Acts 2001, 77th Leg., ch. 1222, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 2001.