Arizona Harassment Defense Attorneys
Harassment charges do not necessarily carry severe prison sentences, but conviction can have severe repercussions for your career and may carry long-term repercussions. Harassment is a serious criminal charge with far reaching implications that has lasting ramifications.
No matter the severity of the allegations of workplace harassment or formal charges for criminal behavior, this article provides extensive details on harassment laws in Arizona. We discuss what qualifies as harassment within this state’s boundaries – such as targeting private individuals, public officials or even aggravated cases – along with our criteria for each.
If you are facing harassment charges in Arizona, it is imperative that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. Our criminal defense attorneys will assist in building an aggressive defense for court and may explore ways to potentially reduce or dismiss charges against you.
What is Harassment in Arizona?
Under Arizona Law (ARS 13-2921), harassment can be defined as any act which causes serious alarm, annoyance or harassment to an individual. For any act to legally qualify as harassment it must cause genuine alarm among its targets and make them feel unsafe, annoyed, or threatened.” To be considered harassment a victim must feel threatened by its presence; and its presence must make them feel threatened as well as alarmed – something which cannot happen with indifference.
Harassment against a Private Party in Arizona
To be charged with harassment in Arizona, one must prove intent or knowledge of harassing another individual. Proving knowledge or intent can often prove challenging in court, making this defense popular in harassment cases.
Arizona law recognizes several actions as constituting harassment, provided intent or sufficient knowledge are present:
- Engaging in contact or communication that causes harassment through verbal, electronic, mechanical, telegraphic, telephonic or written means; engaging in any behavior which aggravates this form of contact; following someone around public spaces without legitimate purpose after being asked to stop; continuing to follow someone for no legitimate purpose when requested to stop;
- Repeated acts that harass another individual. Engaging in surveillance or forcing others to conduct surveillance without legitimate cause. Filing false reports with law enforcement, credit agencies, or social service agencies on multiple occasions.
- Interfering with the delivery of public or regulated utility services to another person.
- Harassment charges in Arizona are considered class 1 misdemeanors if found guilty.
Harassment against a Public Officer or Employee in Arizona
Arizona law prohibits the filing of non-consensual liens against them, except under specific circumstances:
- The lien is accompanied by a court order or judgment.
- The lien is issued by a government entity, subdivision, or agency.
- The lien is issued by a licensed utility or water delivery company.
- The lien is issued by a mechanics’ lien claimant.
- The lien is issued by an entity created under covenants, restrictions, conditions, or declarations affecting real property.
In cases where harassment involves a public officer or employee and meets one of these conditions, it is considered a class 5 felony
Aggravated Harassment in Arizona
Individuals can face charges of aggravated harassment for repeat offenses against the same victim in two specific circumstances:
- The victim is currently protected by a valid court order of protection or injunction.
- The defendant has a prior conviction for domestic violence under ARS 13-3601.
If a defendant is convicted of aggravated harassment under the first condition, it is classified as a class 6 felony. However, for repeat offenders, the charge is elevated to a class 5 felony. If a defendant is convicted of aggravated harassment under the second condition, it is considered a class 5 felony.
Penalties for Harassment in Arizona
Harassment charges in Arizona can lead to various classifications, from misdemeanor to class 5 felony. Below is an outline of each classification’s potential legal consequences:
Class 1 Misdemeanor in Arizona:
A class 1 misdemeanor can carry a maximum prison term of six months and fine of up to $2,500, plus court-imposed additional sanctions like community restitution, mandatory education or probation.
Class 6 Felony:
For first-time offenders, class 6 felonies carry a maximum prison sentence of 1.5 years; for more serious offenses a two year maximum jail term applies (ARS 13-702). Repeat offenders could face between 2.25 to 4.5 years imprisonment while those charged with multiple aggravated violations could receive sentences between 2.75 to 5.75 years (ARS 13-702 and 13-704).
Note that felonies in Arizona carry a maximum fine of $150,000.
Class 5 Felony:
A first-time offender charged with a class 5 felony may receive a maximum prison sentence of two years; for aggravated felonies, this maximum may increase to 2.5 years. Repeat offenders could receive sentences between 3 to 6 years, with repeat offenses potentially incurring an enhanced punishment range from 3.75 to 7.5 years in jail time.
Possible Defenses against Harassment Charges in Arizona
When you meet with your criminal defense attorney, he or she will discuss possible defenses to have the charges against you lowered or dropped. There are a number of options at your disposal, though there are four that stand out as the most common:
- Proving lack of intent or knowledge
- Proving that the victim was not seriously alarmed, annoyed or harassed
- Lowering the charge from a felony to a misdemeanor
- Miranda rights violations
Proving Lack of Intent or Knowledge
Arizona’s harassment laws stipulate that for an act to qualify as harassment, either the perpetrator must have intended it, or possess knowledge that his/her actions cause it. Even if their actions cause alarm or harassment to someone, but without intent to cause harm or knowledge that their actions would lead to such consequences. Hence if their actions cause alarm or harassment to someone they cannot be charged with harassment as long as this was never their intent nor they had knowledge their actions would cause such consequences.
Proving that the Victim was Not Seriously Alarmed, Annoyed or Harassed
This defense may be useful when harassment charges are initiated without explicit consent from the victim. Even when actions meet legal definition of harassment, they may still not qualify unless their actions caused genuine distress for their target. It is crucial to ascertain if their target perceived their actions as acts of loving concern or one-off incidents before making this determination; otherwise if their interpretation differs, defendant should not be charged with harassment.
Lowering the Charge from a Felony to a Misdemeanor
Under Arizona Revised Statute 13-604, Arizona courts may have the discretion to reduce class 6 felonies to class 1 misdemeanors when the offense is nonviolent and it is the defendant’s first-time offense. This provision offers individuals charged with harassment an opportunity for more favorable outcomes; their potential penalty could be reduced from two years in prison to as little as six months incarceration by taking advantage of this provision.
Miranda Rights Violations
Asserting that law enforcement violated your Miranda rights is a popular legal strategy in criminal court. This strategy centers around the principle that you have an absolute right to know about and protect those rights.
If an arresting officer fails to fulfill their responsibilities or violates your Miranda rights, the court may exclude evidence or testimony obtained illegally and even cause the prosecutor to dismiss charges against you.
What to Do if You’re Facing Charges for Harassment in Arizona
When you’re facing criminal charges in Arizona, it’s important to meet with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
You have the right to an attorney when you’re arrested, and you should exercise that right before speaking with law enforcement — even if they offer you a deal that will allegedly be “off the table” when you lawyer arrives. The truth is, an experienced criminal defense attorney will always be able to negotiate a better deal than anything you’re offered during interrogation.
Call the JacksonWhite Criminal Law team at (480) 418-4281 to discuss your case today.