Harassment is a criminal offense that involves unwelcome actions, which may be intentional or unintentional, performed by one person toward another person. Harassment makes the receiving person feel uncomfortable, irritated, or fearful for his or her safety. Aggravated harassment is a broad legal term that refers to intentional actions designated to intimidate or terrorize another person. The exact legal definition may vary depending on the state, region, or country the action occurs in; however, most jurisdictions tend to categorize the crime into either first or second degrees according to the severity. The punishment will depend on whether the charges are considered first or second degree.
The less severe form of aggravated harassment is second degree. This may include contacting another person through repeated letters, telephone, or other electronic means, even after the victim has asked the perpetrator to stop. The perpetrator will usually act with the intent to make the victim feel uncomfortable or unsafe. It may also include certain physical contact, such shoving or striking, or just the threat of inflicting physical contact. A second degree form of the crime is generally a misdemeanor or more minor crime.
First degree aggravated harassment is considered the more severe category of the criminal action. It typically involves the same type of behaviors as the second degree category, but may be labeled as first degree if it the person being charged has already been convicted of the second degree form in the past. Some jurisdictions may be more likely to charge a person with first degree if his or her threats or actions were based on the victim’s religion, race, gender, age, or sexual orientation. First degree aggravated harassment is usually punished as a felony or more serious crime.
The punishment for aggravated harassment can vary widely depending on different factors. One of the main factors in determining sentencing is the state, region, or country the alleged actions occurred in. Different areas typically have their own sentencing laws for the crime and they can differ even from other nearby areas. Some areas may also be stricter in sentencing on different factors, such as if physical force was involved or if the victim was targeted due to his or her beliefs, lifestyle choices, race, age, or other discriminatory factors. Another key factor in determining sentencing is the severity of the crime and whether it is first or second degree, as well as if it is a repeated offense.