What is harassment?
Harassment is currently defined by Maryland law as any act or behavior that intentionally bothers or annoys a person in a public setting. Such actions are usually repeated, lack a legal purpose, and continue even after the specific individual or someone who represents the victim has told the offender to stop those activities.
There are three main types of harassment: physical, verbal and visual. Each of them is different and a person may use one or more harassment types against their victims.
Physical harassment is an action in which one person touches another person inappropriately and against their will. If such an incident occurs at a person’s place of employment, it could also be considered workplace harassment. The act must have been deliberate and meant to threaten, embarrass or otherwise make the target feel uncomfortable.
Verbal harassment refers to the practice of using written or spoken words or remarks against another individual or group. Examples of this type of harassment are profanity, threats and suggestive actions that are inappropriate. A person may scold, chastise, label, rebuke, yell or swear at their victim. Verbal abuse is often seen as a kind of mental and/or psychological abuse.
Visual harassment is an incident where a person exposes themselves on purpose to another person or group. The action must be intentional. It can also be considered visual harassment if the act affects the victim’s attitude or performance at work. Examples of visual harassment are sending someone sexually explicit pictures of themself or indecent exposure, which could also be seen as sexual harassment in certain cases.
Why do people harass others?
There are a litany of reasons why a person chooses to harass another. They could be a former spouse or romantic partner who wants revenge or to humiliate their ex. It could be someone that the plaintiff has worked with, a friend or relative. The offender may even be a complete stranger who picked their target at random.
Is harassment a crime?
Harassment is a misdemeanor. It is punishable by a fine of no more than $1,000 and a maximum jail term of 90 days. These penalties can be increased for each subsequent violation.
Even though harassment isn’t as serious as other types of crimes, that doesn’t mean that it should be taken lightly. Harassment can seriously affect a victim. It may take them several weeks, months, or even years to recover from the acts that were undertaken by the defendant.
Victims may be harassed physically, mentally, emotionally or financially. They could feel unsafe or unsure of themselves as a result of the offender’s actions. If the victim is a business owner, their company could suffer if an employee harassed them, or one or more of their coworkers. Things can be especially difficult if the accused is someone that the victim comes into regular contact with, such as a relative, coworker or friend, for example. They may or may not be able to stop interacting with them frequently, depending on the specific situation.
What should I do if I’m a victim of harassment?
You should report any incidents of harassment to local law enforcement as soon as possible. If the action is serious enough, the offender may be charged with harassment. A peace or protective order may be brought against the offender if necessary. Maryland does not offer restraining orders as of this writing. The case could be brought to trial as well.
In court, you’ll need to be able to prove that:
- The defendant chose to follow a certain type of conduct that caused you to be harassed by that person and
- The defendant should have known or been able to reasonably deduce that their particular behavior would result in harassment of the plaintiff.
A victim must be able to verify that a particular person engaged in at least two or more incidents of harassment against them before they can seek a protective or peace order against that individual. A $40 service fee, and a $46 filing fee will be charged for each restraining order that is requested. The court may choose to waive the filing fee if the petitioner is financially unable to pay that charge.
If the accused was a relative or romantic partner, a protective order may be sought. If the offender was a friend, coworker, acquaintance or stranger, you can seek a peace order against them. The specific order that is requested will be valid for anywhere from a few days to up to a year, depending on the type of order and reason why that order was requested.
What can I do if I’ve been accused of harassment?
You can represent yourself or enlist the aid of legal counsel if you’ve been charged with or accused of harassment. A person may press charges against you if they have witnessed actions or certain behavior that could constitute harassment. They will need to prove that those acts occurred, that the conduct was intentional and that it was designed to harass, intimidate, threaten or embarrass them.
The person who is seeking relief will be known as the plaintiff. You’ll be referred to as the defendant in the case. The plaintiff may bring forth witnesses, evidence and testimony to support their claim. You can cross-examine those witnesses and submit your own testimony and evidence to support your position.
Harassment is a delicate subject and can be difficult to prove in certain cases. It can take time for victims to finally feel safe in public again after they’ve been harassed. They may also worry that the perpetrator will re-offend or that people will think poorly of them because of how the accused treated them.
If you’ve been harassed or accused of harassment, you probably have a lot of questions. That’s why we’re here. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. Our trained professionals will sit down and listen to your side of the story. They will provide advice for possible next steps and can even represent you in court if you want.
Our main goal is for you to get back on track again as soon as possible. It’s important to stand up for yourself and ensure that the facts in the matter are represented. It won’t happen overnight, but you’ll probably back to your happy, positive self before you realize it.