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How Do Harassment and Stalking Criminal Charges Differ in Tennessee?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Union County criminal defense attorney stalking

With texting, calling, and social media profiles available at the touch of a button, it has never been easier to find someone’s information and continue contacting them over a number of platforms. What may have been considered harassment or stalking 10 years ago has now escalated to include digital outreach. You have likely heard the term “Facebook stalking” or other versions of looking at someone’s public information online. While this term may poke fun at browsing through a person’s social media content, it can be considered a crime if taken too far. 

The Legal Definition of Harassment

There are a number of threatening actions that are considered harassment by Tennessee law. According to Tennessee law, a person who intentionally does the following is committing the criminal offense of harassment:

  1. Communicating a threat to another person. The threat must insinuate harm to the other person and a reasonable person must interpret the communication as a threat of harm.

  2. Communicating with another person, knowingly or anonymously, with the intent to alarm, annoy, offend, or frighten the recipient.

  3. Communicating that the recipient’s relative or other person has been injured or killed, intending on harassing the recipient and knowing that the information is false.

  4. Sending an image that is intended to be a threat of harm or would be perceived as a threat of harm.

These actions can be done in-person, through texting or calling, online via email, or over social media platforms. Harassment is charged as a Class A misdemeanor in Tennessee. This level of charge results in a determinate sentence of less than 12 months of imprisonment and up to $2,500 in fines.

How Is Stalking Different?

Stalking in itself is a pattern of harassing conduct. In other words, if a person is harassing someone and the actions continue on a regular basis, the criminal charge would escalate from harassment to stalking. Nowadays, cyberstalking is especially common since the perpetrator can use a false virtual identity while doing so or remain completely anonymous to the victim. Stalking is considered a Class A misdemeanor; however, if the perpetrator displays a weapon throughout the conduct of harassment, the charge escalates to a Class E felony in Tennessee. This level of felony charge results in one to six years imprisonment and up to $3,000 in fines.

Contact a Knox County Criminal Defense Lawyer

As you can see, the charges associated with persistent, threatening communication are really dependent upon the interpretation of the messages or conversations. Because these charges are far from cut-and-dry, your defense strategy is exceedingly important. Jeffrey Coller, Knoxville Criminal Defense Attorney, is dedicated to defending those facing criminal charges, no matter what kind. Attorney Coller has a number of defense strategies at his disposal for stalking and harassment charges, and he works tirelessly for all of his clients to avoid a conviction. If you are facing any criminal charges, call our proficient Knoxville, TN criminal law attorney today at 865-281-1000 to schedule your free consultation.

 

Sources:

https://casetext.com/statute/tennessee-code/title-39-criminal-offenses/chapter-17-offenses-against-public-health-safety-and-welfare/part-3-disorderly-conduct-and-riots/section-39-17-308-harassment

https://withoutmyconsent.org/50state/state-guides/tennessee/statutory-criminal-law/#stalking

 

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