What is harassment in Texas? law scrgruppen

What is harassment in Texas?

Harassment is defined in Penal Code Section 42.07 It covers a wide range of acts committed “with intent to harass, annoy, alarm, ill-treat, torture or embarrass another person” including obscene communications, threatening communications, false alarms about serious bodily injury or death of a family member, and telephone calls Repeated. or electronic communications, making and hanging up telephone calls, and posting repetitive electronic communications over the Internet that do not constitute public interest and are likely to cause emotional distress, abuse or distress.

Intent requirements in harassment laws


In essence, the word “intent” refers to the conscious goal or purpose behind an action. For harassment charges, it is not enough that someone feels harassed; The alleged harasser must have acted with the intentional purpose of causing distress or upset.


To continually annoy or torment someone. This could be through frequent unwanted communications, following someone, or other behaviors that constantly disturb another person’s peace.


To irritate or annoy, usually through some repetitive, unwelcome behavior or action. It is less severe than harassment but still causes discomfort.


To cause fear or a state of heightened awareness. This can be through threats or actions that make a person fear for his or her safety.


Being treated harshly or violently, especially on a regular or repeated basis. In the context of harassment, the term often refers to emotional or psychological mistreatment, although it can also include physical acts.


To cause severe physical or psychological pain. It is more severe than just discomfort and involves a level of harshness or severity in behavior.


To make someone feel ashamed or ashamed. This could be through revealing personal information, ridicule, or any other behavior that belittles or belittles a person in public or private places.

The importance of intent in harassment cases

The intent requirement ensures that only those who act for a malicious or harmful purpose are legally liable. Accidental or unintentional actions that might upset or even alarm someone do not usually meet this standard.

For example, if someone sends a text message to the wrong number, even if the recipient is upset, there is no intent to harass or disturb, so it is not considered harassment under the law.

Proof of intent

Intent is generally proven circumstantial. Evidence such as repeated actions (such as multiple unsolicited messages), direct threats, or other behavior can be used to prove intent.

Examples of harassment in Texas

To be classified as harassment, acts must be done with the intent to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torture or embarrass another person.” Context, frequency, and the relationship between the parties involved play a crucial role in determining whether an act can legally be classified as harassment.

  1. Outrageous communication:

    • identificationSending messages containing obscene, vulgar or inappropriate material.
    • Example: Someone sends explicit photos or messages containing graphic descriptions of sexual acts to another person without their consent, with the intent to abuse or disturb them.
  2. Communications threat:

    • identification: Threatening harm or violence.
    • Example: Someone sends a text message saying: “Watch out, I’m coming for you” or “You’ll regret crossing me.”
  3. False alarms about a family member suffering serious bodily injury or death:

    • identificationIntentionally conveying false information about the serious injury or death of a family member.
    • Example: A person calls another person and falsely tells him that his brother has been in a serious car accident, with the intention of causing panic and distress.
  4. Frequent telephone or electronic communications:

    • identification: Sending multiple unsolicited phone calls, text messages, emails, or other electronic messages.
    • Example: An ex-partner sends dozens of emails and text messages over a short period, even after being asked to stop, with the intent to annoy or torment the recipient.
  5. Make and disconnect phone calls:

    • identification: Calling someone and deliberately cutting off the call without speaking, especially when this happens repeatedly.
    • Example: Over the course of several days, an individual receives several calls from an unknown number. Every time they answer, the caller immediately hangs up, causing confusion and anxiety.
  6. Posting repetitive electronic communications over the Internet does not matter to the audience:

    • identification: Posting multiple messages or content online, especially on social media, that is not related to public concerns and is likely to cause emotional distress.
    • Example: Someone takes private messages from a previous relationship and repeatedly posts them on different social media platforms, not because they are of public interest, but to embarrass and torment their ex.

Harassment in Texas: Level of Crime and Punishment

Class B misdemeanor

Harassment is generally classified as a Class B misdemeanor when a person commits a crime under the provisions of the Harassment Act without any prior convictions for harassment.
• Punishment:
• Up to 180 days in prison.
• A fine of up to $2,000.
• Or both a fine and imprisonment.

A misdemeanor of the first degree

If the offender has a prior conviction for harassment, the subsequent offense is raised to a first-degree misdemeanor.
• Punishment:
• Up to one year in prison.
• A fine of up to $4,000.
• Or both a fine and imprisonment.

Legal Challenges to Texas Harassment Law

In a split 5-4 decision, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Texas’ harassment law is not unconstitutionally broad in its restriction of free speech. The part of the harassment law that became the basis of the appeal was to limit repeated messages intended to harass. Justice Scott Walker, writing for the majority, affirmed the criminal prohibition in Texas Penal Code § 42.07(a)(7) against “electronic communications” that are repeatedly sent with intent and are likely to “harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass.” , “or abuse” the recipient penalizes the “conduct,” the First Amendment does not involve it, and is not subject to any over-analysis. So the harassment law still exists in Texas even though lawyers hope the Supreme Court will hear the case.

Barton Challenge

• Case: Barton ex parte
• Issue: The intermediate appellate court held that Penal Code Section 42.07(a)(7), which relates to cyberharassment, is unconstitutionally vague and overbroad under the First Amendment.
• Status: The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the law and an injunction has now been filed with the US Supreme Court.

Sanders challenge

• Case: Sanders ex parte
• The issue: The state’s highest criminal court upheld a state law that makes it a crime to send repeated emails, texts and other electronic messages with the intent to harass, annoy or embarrass, with an emphasis on action rather than speech.
• Status: The Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the law and an injunction has now been filed with the US Supreme Court.

Defenses in harassment cases in Texas:

  1. Lack of intention:

    The Texas Penal Code requires that an alleged harasser act “with the intent to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, or embarrass another person.” If such intent cannot be proven, it can serve as a defense.

  2. Wrong identity:

    The defendant can argue that he or she is not the person who committed the alleged harassment. This can be supported by excuses, witness testimonies or other evidence.

  3. consent:

    If the alleged victim has given prior consent to actions or communications that are now classified as harassment, it can serve as a defense.

  4. First Amendment rights:

    In some cases, a defendant may argue that his or her actions or communications are protected by the First Amendment, especially if the alleged harassment was based on speech or expression. However, this defense has limits, especially when the speech includes threats or profanity.

  5. fact:

    In cases where the harassment allegation involves the dissemination of false information, proving the truth of the statement can serve as a defense.

  6. Insufficient evidence:

    Simply put, if there is not enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed harassment, it can serve as a defense.

  7. Casual contact:

    If the defendant can prove that the contact was incidental and not intended to be harassment, it can be used as a defense.

These are just examples of possible defenses. Any successful defense must be specific to the allegations you face.

If you have been charged with harassment in Tarrant County or a surrounding county, call us at (817) 203-2220.

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