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Published on 10/4/2022, 11:23:00 AM

Harassment and Stalking in Maryland

Harassment and stalking are serious crimes in Maryland. In fact, a conviction can result in up to five years in prison and a permanent criminal record.

Therefore, if you are facing harassment or stalking charges in Maryland, you should contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible for assistance.

In this article, we examine harassment and stalking in the state of Maryland, as explained by a Maryland Stalking lawyer.

What is Stalking?

cellphonePursuant to Section 3-802 of the Maryland Code, stalking is a malicious course of conduct that involves pursuing or approaching another person. Under Section 3-801 of the Maryland Code, a "course of conduct" is a persistent pattern of behavior that exhibits a continuity of purpose. This means that any Maryland harassment case, or Maryland stalking case will consist of multiple events occuring in a "course of conduct".

Stalking may occur in person, electronically, or through the use of a device that can track or identify the location of a person without his or her knowledge or consent. A Maryland stalking lawyer will be able to explain exactly what actions might constitute stalking.

When a person is charged with stalking in Maryland, the court will look for evidence that the suspect intended, knew, or should have known that his or her conduct would place the victim in reasonable fear of:

Exceptions in stalking cases

Exceptions to stalking in Maryland include acts that are:

  1. Performed pursuant to a court order

  2. Authorized, protected, or required by law

  3. Performed to execute a lawful commercial purpose

Maryland Stalking Penalties

The crime of stalking is a misdemeanor in the state of Maryland. A person who is convicted of stalking faces up to five years of imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000.

Further, the sentence imposed may run concurrent to a separate crime that is linked to the stalking or it may be included to run consecutively.

What is Harassment?

cellphoneStalking and harassment are different crimes in Maryland, with stalking being the more serious of the two. Pursuant to Section 3-803 of the Maryland Code, harassment occurs when one person follows another in a public place or maliciously engages in repeated conduct that seriously alarms of annoys the victim of the behavior.

A qualified Maryland Harassment lawyer will be able to explain exactly what qualifies as harassment in Maryland.

When assessing a harassment allegation, the authorities will consider the following:

  1. Whether the suspect had an intention to harass, alarm, or annoy the other party

  2. Whether the suspect was unwilling to cease his or her actions after a request to stop or a reasonable warning by the other person

  3. Whether the suspect's action was without a legal purpose

However, the law makes an exception to the crime of harassment when a person is expressing a political view or providing information to another person.

Maryland Harassment Penalties

The crime of harassment is a misdemeanor in Maryland. A first harassment conviction is punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. Repeated harassment charges are punishable by up to 180 days of incarceration and a fine of up to $1,000.

Misuse of Telephone Facilities and Equipment / Telephone Misuse

cellphoneIn addition to harassment and stalking charges, Maryland has a law that relates to the misuse of telephone facilities and equipment, which is closely linked to the former two crimes.

Pursuant to Section 3-804 of the Maryland Code, a person commits a misdemeanor offense by making harassing or threatening phone calls. Specifically, any of the following actions can result in a misuse of telephone facilities and equipment charge:

  • A single phone call made with the intention of tormenting, harassing, embarrassing, abusing, or annoying another person.

  • Making repeated calls with the above intentions

  • A phone call that becomes lewd, suggestive, obscene, lascivious, or indecent.

Misuse of telephone facilities and equipment in Maryland is a misdemeanor that is punishable by a fine of up to $500 and up to three years in prison.

Misuse of Electronic Communication

In addition to telephone-based crimes, Maryland has criminalized the misuse of electronic communication. This offense covers any interactive computer service, including an iPad, laptop, or a smartphone.

In Maryland, it is illegal to engage in a course of conduct via electronic communication that seriously alarms or annoys another person if:

  • The behavior is intended to annoy, harass, or alarm the recipient

  • The behavior continues after a request to stop or a reasonable warning

  • It is without legal purpose

Although it is illegal to misuse online networks in the manner described above, the offense does not include providing technical assistance or information to another person when authorized by the federal or state government or when subject to a court order.

In addition, Maryland law makes an exception for a peaceable activity that is intended to provide information to others or to express a political view.

Misuse of electronic communication in the state of Maryland is a misdemeanor, and it is punishable by up to one year of incarceration and a fine of up to $500.

Defending Against Stalking and Harassment Charges

cellphoneAlthough stalking and harassment are clearly defined in law, there are several gray areas when it comes to these crimes. For example, one individuals' interpretation of what constitutes stalking or harassment may differ from someone else's interpretation of similar actions.

This is especially true given the inclusion in Maryland's stalking law of conduct that causes serious emotional distress. Actions that cause one person to experience serious emotional distress may not do the same for someone else.

In addition, Maryland's criminalization of certain actions using electronic communication devices further complicates things, as it is easy for one person to take another person's electronic message out of context. For example, people have been arrested for sending emojis that were interpreted as being threatening by recipients.

How does intent factor into a stalking case?

Finally, the concept of intent adds further confusion to the defense of stalking and harassment charges. Since intent is a necessary component of a stalking or harassment charge in Maryland, it isn't enough for the prosecution in a stalking or harassment case to merely demonstrate that a person took certain actions consistent with these crimes.

Rather, the prosecutor must show that a defendant intended to annoy, alarm, harass, threaten the victim in the case. Despite this fact, police often make arrests for stalking and harassment in Maryland without considering an arrestee's intent. Instead, they simply take the word of the alleged victim that harassment or stalking took place.

In other words, given the subjective nature of these crimes, defending against stalking and harassment charges can be extremely complicated. Therefore, if you've been charged with stalking, harassment, or a related crime in Maryland, you should seek the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Contact a Maryland Criminal Defense Lawyer today

If you are facing stalking or harassment charges in the state of Maryland, you should contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as you can. At FrizWoods, our experienced and knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys are solely focused on defending people against criminal charges.

Attorneys Luke Woods and Max Frizalone have strong track records of obtaining successful results for their clients, and they are well known for providing criminal defendants with aggressive representation.

When you come to us for help with your Maryland stalking or harassment case, attorneys Woods and Frizalone will utilize their vast knowledge and experience to provide you with the strongest defense possible. Please contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys protected by attorney client priviledge.