When it comes to penal law, the letter of the law can be pretty confusing. When you think about it, the language involved in these laws wasn’t designed for the average person to read, but rather a lawyer with years of experience who’s trained to pick apart what exactly the law means. With that said, we want to take a look at one charge in particular to better understand what it means and figure out some of the definitions involved in it, as well as possible defenses you can use should you be charged with this crime. So let’s get started with a look at some of the definitions involved.
The basic definition of this crime is that you make a phone call that’s either obscene, threatening, or is actually one in a series of repeated calls, all with the intention of annoying or harassing whoever it is that you’re calling. You should also note, though, that this applies to emails and text messages as well, not just phone calls despite the name of this charge. Even though people might consider something like a prank call as just that, a prank, this is in fact charged as a misdemeanor, and can even give you a sentence in the county jail. Whatever the message is, it has to be obscene or threatening in some way, or else a repeated message to be considered under this law. The thing is that the court in many ways is still figuring out what constitutes obscene or threatening language under this law, so the definition is pretty amorphous and not as cut and dry as you’d expect. This law covers just about any electronic means of communication that you can think of, and it’s also important to note that it also applies if the person you’re contacting doesn’t answer at first, but then reaches you later, at which point you take part in the obscene language or whatever it is. Again, the language is important, not necessarily the method of contact. This charge is a misdemeanor, and so is punishable by six months in county jail, a fine of up to a thousand dollars, or both.
When it comes to defenses of this crime, one of the clearest ones is that you didn’t intend to harass or annoy the person involved. In fact, you can’t be convicted of this crime unless the prosecutor proves beyond a reasonable doubt that this is what you tried to do. Along with this, if you had a good faith intention behind the phone call, you can also use that as a possible defense. Another way that you can defend yourself of this crime is to argue that the language involved wasn’t actually obscene. This is a core component of the law, so if this can’t be proven then the charges will likely be dropped. Another defense is the insanity defense, which basically concludes that you had some sort of mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the communication and so can’t be held accountable for your words.
As you can see, things ten to make sense when it comes to penal law the more that you break it down into simple to understand language and avoid getting into the legalese that can so plague most explanations of the law whenever you take a look at the penal code. As always, if you’re facing legal trouble and feel that you meet these applicable defenses, it’s important that you get in touch with the right counsel, who can get your charges reduced or even dropped.