Well by now, you have probably spent an overwhelming amount of time with your family members. And at this point, some of them are probably starting to agitate you. In my last blog, you learned that something as little as pushing or shoving a household member can land you in the slammer and have you kicked out of your house. But can something you say to a family member actually put you behind bars and have you restricted from going back to the house? Surprisingly, the answer is YES.
In Iowa, we have a law called harassment. There are three (3) levels of harassment. They are set forth below:
- Harassment in the First Degree-An aggravated misdemeanor
- Harassment in the Second Degree- A serious misdemeanor; and
- Harassment in the Third Degree- A simple misdemeanor
The most serious form of harassment is harassment in the first degree, which is an aggravated misdemeanor. To be convicted of harassment in the first degree, you simply have to threaten a forcible felony upon another person. For example, if you say to another person’s face that you are going to kill them. Or other examples would include threatening another person with (1) arson (in the first degree), (2) kidnapping, and (3) robbery (in the first degree). If convicted of harassment in the first degree, one could face a $6,250.00 fine and up to two years in prison. Even more importantly, a no-contact-order would be placed against the defendant preventing them from returning to the home/place of employment of the victim. So if you threaten to kill your spouse, you could be kicked out of your house for a period of 5 years should your spouse want to stay away from you. I think it is fair to say that this harassment law can be rather harsh.
The second most serious form of harassment is harassment in the second degree, which is a serious misdemeanor. To be convicted of harassment in the second degree, you have to threaten bodily injury upon another person. For example, if a person threatens to punch another person in the face, that is harassment in the second degree. If convicted of harassment in the second degree, one could face up to one year in the county jail and a $1,875.00 fine. Like harassment in the first degree, a no-contact order will be placed against the defendant preventing them from having any contact with the protected party. The no-contact order even prevents them from being in the vicinity of the protected party’s residence or place of employment.
The least serious form of harassment is harassment in the third degree, which is a simple misdemeanor. Harassment in the third degree is any form of harassment that is not harassment in the first or second degree, which is intended to intimidate, annoy, or alarm another person. As you can imagine, harassment in the third degree can be achieved in many different ways. If convicted, one can serve up to thirty (30) days in the county jail and face up to a $625.00 fine. Like harassment in the first and second degree, a no-contact order is placed against the defendant preventing him or her from any sort of contact with the protected party. In my experience, harassment in the third degree is about one of the easiest crimes for a prosecutor to prove. I even once had a client found guilty of harassment in the third degree for looking at another person in an intimidating manner while sitting in the car at a stop sign (this was a case between neighbors who had a heated past). Simply put, this is not a hard charge to prove for the State and a crime that has a very harsh penalty. I should note that if a person violates the no-contact order, they face a minimum of seven (7) days in jail and a maximum of one hundred and eighty (180) days in jail. Now there are ways around modifying or canceling the no-contact orders prior to the five-year expiration date if one is convicted of the crime but that can sometimes not be the easiest process in the world.
In conclusion, harassment can be a rather ticky-tack crime that can have very harsh penalties if not handled correctly. Should you or a loved one be charged with the crime of harassment, do not hesitate to contact the Feld Law Firm with any questions you may have. We would be happy to answer your questions.