Maryland Harassment Law: What Does it Entail?

In Maryland, stalking and harassment are serious crimes that entail fines ranging from $300 to $5,000 and jail sentences ranging from ninety days to five years, depending on the type and severity of the alleged offense.

Harassment and stalking charges are frequently very subjective, relying on the defendant’s testimony against the complainant. Harassment and stalking are both recognized criminal offenses in Maryland, with regulations distinct from those that apply to related crimes like extortion and issuing threats.

Title 3, Subtitle 8 of the Maryland Criminal Law Code covers both stalking and harassment, with numerous codes within this part referring to the definitions of stalking and harassment, as well as associated penalties.

Title 3, Subtitle 9 of the Maryland criminal law code covers crimes closely related to stalking, such as monitoring and other crimes against privacy.

Maryland Criminal Statutes

Based on the details of the offense, bullying may be punished under any of the state criminal legislation below.

  • Harassment

Harassment is described as following another person in or about a public area or maliciously engaging in repeated behavior that seriously bothers or alarms another person, as specified by state law section 3-803:

  • To cause annoyance, alarm, or harassment.
  • The individual or someone acting on their behalf has been adequately urged or cautioned to stop the behavior.
  • There is no legal reason for it.

The exemption to the specified definition of harassment is found in Section 3-803(b). You cannot be prosecuted for harassment if you engage in peaceful activities with the goal of informing others or expressing a political viewpoint.

A harassment conviction can result in a misdemeanor charge, a fine of up to $500, and a prison sentence of up to 90 days. Recidivists face a fine of up to $1,000 and a term of up to 180 days in prison. Hiring a professional Maryland stalking defense lawyer will give you the best opportunity of obtaining a positive outcome in the court of law. 

  • Stalking 

Stalking is described by Maryland Criminal Law Code section 3-802 as pursuing or contacting another person repeatedly with the goal of putting that person in reasonable dread of:

  • Severe injuries to the body
  • Any kind of assault
  • Sections 3-303 through 3-308 of the criminal code specify rape and other sexual offenses
  • Kidnapping or any other form of wrongful detention
  • Death

The type of behavior that is not deemed stalking in Maryland is defined in Section 3-802(b). This includes acts to guarantee that a court order is followed, carry out a legal, commercial objective, or comply with other legal authorizations, protections, or obligations.

Because of the type of injury that is at risk, this offense varies from harassment. Stalking, unlike harassment, puts the victim in danger of serious injury or even death.

As a result, it’s easy to see how different types of bullying might fall into each of these categories. For example, repeated name-calling could be charged as harassment, whereas genuine threats to harm a victim would most likely be classified as stalking.

Once you are found guilty of stalking in Maryland, you might face a misdemeanor conviction with a fine of up to $5,000, a five-year jail sentence, or both. Depending on the facts of your case and the court’s decision, this term may run concurrently with a sentence for a different offense.

  • Misuse of Electronic Mail

Misuse of electronic mail, as specified by state code section 3-805, is described as sending obscene, vulgar, or lascivious items to a person with a unique address using any electronic device, such as a computer, mobile phone, or tablet PC, with the goal of harassing one or more individuals.

Individuals are free from penalty if they transmit email as part of a peaceful activity with the goal of delivering information to or discussing political opinions with others, according to state law section 3-805(d).

Misuse of electronic mail is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $500 and a sentence of up to one year in prison. The purpose of Section 3-805.1 is to prevent spam and the sending of commercial emails to large groups of people with the objective of harassing or misleading them.

If the email spam is transmitted in the commission of a criminal, a conviction can result in a misdemeanor with a penalty of up to $10,000 and up to five years in prison, or a felony with up to ten years in prison and a fine of $25,000.

  • Misuse of a Laser Pointer

The use of a laser pointer to willfully illuminate another individual in a public area in a manner that endangers or harasses that person is classified as misuse of a laser pointer, as specified by state code section 3-806. A laser pointer is a device that emits visible light that has been enhanced via the stimulated emission of radiation.

This law does not apply to certain actions. You cannot be prosecuted for misuse of a laser pointer if you are using it in the normal course of trade or work operations or for educational reasons in a training class or organized meeting. Misuse of a laser pointer can result in a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $500 if you are found guilty.

Defending Against A Criminal Charge

When you’ve been charged with a crime including bullying and harassment, you should look into these and other possible defenses. However, each set of circumstances is unique, and only an experienced local criminal defense attorney can advise you on which defenses are most suited to your case’s specific facts.

  • Free speech

The 1st Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees freedom of speech. While this right is not absolute, some words (including actual speaking, actions, and other behavior) may be offensive yet still be protected. When free speech poses a significant and immediate threat to the state, the state has the legal authority to prohibit it. 

Whenever it comes to bullying, you are not permitted to make threats or engage in other aggressive activities that could endanger another person. 

Nonviolent or non-threatening acts, on the other hand, are frequently legally protected (for example, those meant to express the defendant’s political beliefs or to offer legitimate information to others).

The distinction between a valid statement of opinion and seriously dangerous speech is not always easy to discern. As a result, it’s worth looking into a free speech defense, especially if your comments or actions were vague enough so as not to put a reasonable person in danger.

  • It’s not a threat

The offender must act in a way that would make a reasonable person fearful or feel threatened in order to be charged with stalking.

It implies that the offender may be acquitted of stalking allegations if the victim was hypersensitive to activities that would not alarm an average reasonable person in the victim’s circumstances. Similarly, if the bully’s behavior would scare a reasonable person but the victim was unconcerned, the aggressor is unlikely to be found guilty of bullying.

Conclusion

Harassment by and against citizens is a prevalent social issue, but the internet and extensive use of electronic means of communication have exacerbated the problem. Harassment is unlawful in Maryland under the state’s general criminal harassment and stalking statutes.

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