Connecticut Harassment Lawyer
Connecticut police and prosecutors take online and telephone harassment very seriously. With workplace and school violence becoming an increasing concern for law enforcement, Connecticut lawmakers have enacted tough and broadly written laws against harassing and threatening communications made over cell phone conversations, text messages, social media, and fax lines. Also, as many of the top domestic violence attorneys would tell you, Harassment charges frequently arise in domestic violence arrests, when spouses and loved ones take their anger and aggression out on each over electronic and digital media. In these Stamford and Greenwich domestic violence Harassment charges, police arrest first…then let prosecutors ask questions in court later. So, if you have been arrested for 53a-182b / 53a-183 Harassment charges in Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, New Canaan, Wilton, Weston, Westport, or Fairfield, you need to contact a top Connecticut harassment lawyer before your first court date.
What is Harassment in the Second Degree in Connecticut?
The Connecticut crime of Harassment in the Second Degree is spelled out in C.G.S. § 53a-183. This charge is a Class C misdemeanor that carries up to 90 days of jail, probation, and a $500 fine. To be charged with 53a-183 Harassment in the Second Degree, you must be accused of: (1) using indecent or obscene language over the telephone, (2) delivering an annoying, harassing, or alarming message over fax, email, snail mail, or social media like Facebook or Instagram, or (3) intentionally making a telephone call that causes annoyance or alarm. What causes “annoyance” or “alarm” clearly evokes a broad, subjective standard. What may be annoying to one person may not be to another. This is where tough lawyering is needed to advocate aggressively on your behalf with police and prosecutors to convince them to stand down and not prosecute you for what could be a perfectly legal exercise of your First Amendment constitutional rights to free speech.
What is Harassment in the First Degree?
First Degree Harassment in Connecticut is much less frequently charged by Connecticut police. Per the language of C.G.S. § 53a-182b, to be charged with this crime, you must (1) be a convicted felon, and (2) intentionally make a threat to kill or injure another person by phone, fax, snail mail, email, social media, Facebook, or any other type of electronic communication. This is a Class D Felony charge that carries a maximum of 5 years jail, probation, and a $5000 fine.
What Should I Expect at Arraignment for Harassment in the Second Degree?
At your first court date for your Greenwich or Stamford charges of 53a-183 Harassment in the Second Degree, you can expect to be brought before a Superior Court judge. The alleged victim, or accuser in your case—that is, the person or business you are accused of harassing—will have a chance to tell the judge if they feel threatened or if they think you are a clear and present danger to their safety. The prosecutor and Bail Commissioner will then recommend any additional conditions of your release at this court hearing—such as anger management, alcohol and substance abuse counseling, mental health counseling, curfew, no-contact restraining orders, 100-yard stay-away orders, or even GPS monitoring. Obviously these conditions can be heavy-handed and unnecessary. Further, the accusers that got you arrested could have improper motives in asking for these conditions, ultimately hoping you will violate these conditions so they can see you get arrested again for the separate crime of Violating Conditions of Release under CGS 53a-222, a Class A misdemeanor. At this arraignment hearing, you and your Connecticut harassment representative will then have a chance to argue against the imposition of these conditions and explain why they are not necessary. Your lawyer will highlight to the judge your criminal and professional history, the weaknesses of the 53a-183 Harassment case against you, as well as credibility issues of your accuser (i.e. an accuser’s criminal record).
Domestic Violence Harassment Charges
Perhaps the most common context that 53a-183 Harassment in the Second Degree arrests arise is in domestic violence court. People involved in emotionally unstable or volatile family or intimate relationships can sometimes engage in phone or social media harassment as a way of venting their frustration and anger against one another. Domestic violence police and prosecutors believe this conduct can easily escalate to violence so they do not hesitate to prosecute complaints of 53a-183 Harassment so they can put these fires out early. What they don’t realize, however, is the damaging impact these charges can have on your professional and personal lives, as these misdemeanor and felony harassment charges show up on any professional, employment, and financial background check for years while the case is pending and even after the prosecutor drops or “nolles” your harassment charge.
As any top attorney or lawyer would also point out, another unique aspect of a 53a-183 Harassment charge in domestic violence court is at the arraignment when the Superior Court judge issues a “Criminal Protective Order” against you to protect the alleged accusers. These domestic violence restraining / protective orders come in 3 forms: (1) the most severe is the “Full No Contact” order which forbids you from having any contact whatsoever with the accuser, (2) the “Full” or “Residential Stay-Away” order allows contact but forbids you to enter the Protected Person’s business or residence, and (3) the least restrictive is the “Partial” Protective Order which allows full contact and co-habitation but prohibits you from “threatening, intimidating or harassing” the protected parties.
As top Greenwich, Darien and Stamford harassment attorneys might tell you, in 53a-183 Harassment cases it is actually the “Partial” protective orders that can pose the most risk. What police consider to be “intimidating” or “harassing” conduct is a very broadly defined legal term. We always advise our clients that alleged “victims” can often use these Protective Orders as swords—not shields—and thus will try to bait you into violating them. Ironically, many victims are legally permitted to insult you over text or email, but you are not allowed to respond in similar tone or language. The bottom line here is that these are very dangerous waters, and the stakes are very high—as a Violation of a Criminal Protective Order in Connecticut under CGS 53a-223 is a Class D Felony punishable by up to 5 years in jail.
Fighting Harassment Charges in Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, Bridgeport, and Danbury Courts
If not handled properly, Connecticut Harassment cases can snowball into a deep, dark hole of court appearances, restraining / protective orders, and overly burdensome conditions of release. The criminal lawyers at Mark Sherman Law, including our team of experienced Stamford, Greenwich, Darien, and New Canaan domestic violence lawyers and attorneys, will aggressively fight your 53a-182 / 53a-183 Harassment charges. Our “two-attorney” approach ensures that the police reports and videos will be reviewed by at least two of our criminal lawyers for defects, errors and constitutional violations. As part of our approach to fighting Harassment charges is our careful and close analysis of electronic evidence such as cell phone calls, text messaging, and social media communications. We are not afraid to challenge prosecutors and judges who just want our clients to plead out and move on with their lives. We wants dismissals. We have won cases based on our efforts in subpoenaing cell phone triangulation records, cell tower data, and similar information. Internet and telecommunications technology is moving at lightning speed and the Mark Sherman law criminal lawyers continue to keep abreast in all of the latest trends and defenses in telecommunications law.
Another critical defense strategy in these Harassment cases is, in certain circumstances, to aggressively investigate the accusers and victims in a case, especially when they are fabricating their story and making false allegations against our clients. What is their motive to lie? Financial gain? An edge in a pending divorce or child custody proceeding? A business advantage? The Mark Sherman Law criminal lawyers will not hesitate to dive into the personal and professional lives of alleged victims who have wrongfully accused our clients of Harassment. If appropriate, we will move the Superior Court for permission to subpoena their medical, employment and psychological records. All too often we see defendants in court, get pressured into anger management programs and unfair plea deals because these defendants are afraid of the consequences of going to trial. It is time that the pendulum swings back in favor of criminal defendants and their presumption of innocence.
Contact a Connecticut Harassment Criminal Lawyer Today
So if you are charged in New Canaan, Darien, Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk, or Fairfield with First or Second Degree Harassment under CGS 53a-182b or 53a-183, do not wait any longer to call one of the Connecticut harassment lawyers at Mark Sherman Law today. There are too many moving parts for you to handle a Harassment case alone. Our goal is to get your Harassment case resolved—and hopefully dismissed—as quickly as possible. Call us today for a phone consultation. Our rates are competitive and our team approach ensures your case will get the proper amount of time and attention.