If you have been charged with harassment, you need to protect your rights. You need an experienced attorney who understands the criminal justice system and how to put it to work to protect your rights. You may face long prison sentences and high fines if you are convicted.
An experienced Charleston harassment lawyer may represent you in a case to protect your constitutional rights. Speak with our legal team today for help.
Harassment Charges in Charleston
These types of charges fall under the “Harassment and Stalking” in South Carolina Code § 16-3-1700. The most serious of the harassment charges is harassment, first-degree, a misdemeanor under South Carolina law, but it’s considered a felony by the federal government because the maximum penalty is greater than one year in prison (3 years). If you have a prior Harassment conviction within the last ten years, the penalty for a Harassment, first-degree conviction is not more than five years. Harassment, second degree is a less serious misdemeanor, but can still carry jail time if convicted. Stalking is essentially an aggravated harassment charge that is a felony and carries significant time in prison if convicted.
Second Degree Harassment
Harassment in the second degree is subject to the same definition as a first-degree charge but without the additional conduct that “aggravates” the offense. Instead, the person may include written, verbal, or electronic contact that is initiated and repeated to cause emotional distress.
Penalties for a first offense in the second degree include up to thirty days in jail and a maximum fine of $200. If the offense violates an existing protective order or the defendant had a previous conviction for the offense, they could face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.
The line between second-degree first-degree Harassment is often misunderstood by law enforcement, resulting in charges being filed against someone when their conduct has not risen to the level of seriousness that was intended when the law was written. A skilled Charleston criminal defense attorney could further explain how second-degree harassment charges differ from first-degree offenses.
First Degree Harassment
First-degree harassment occurs if a person engages in a pattern of substantial, intentional, and unreasonable intrusions into a person’s private life and it causes emotional or mental distress. This might include:
- Moving a person from one location to some other location
- Surveillance of a person at their residence, place of work, school, or other place
- Vandalism or property damage
- Visual or physical contact after a person has been given notice that it is unwanted by the recipient
A first offense is a South Carolina misdemeanor. It carries a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to $1,000. A violation of restraining order can increase the fine to $2,000. If the individual has a prior conviction within the last 10 years for this offense, the new case is a felony with up to five years behind bars and a fine of $5,000. A Charleston attorney could further explain what penalties someone might be facing for aggravated harassment charges.
Defending against Harassment Charges in Charleston
Allegations like this are very serious. Not only may they harm a person’s reputation, but they could also lead to a misdemeanor or felony conviction on their criminal record, and in some cases, loss of the right to own a gun. Defending the case is essential to protecting an accused’s rights.
Potential defenses include, but are not limited to:
- The alleged actions occurred only once and were never repeated
- The actions would not cause a reasonable person mental distress or emotional harm
- The actions of the accused served a legitimate purpose and were not to cause mental distress or emotional harm
- File a suppression motion to exclude unconstitutional evidence
- Cross-examine witnesses to present reasonable doubt in the prosecutor’s case
These defenses and others may apply to a particular aggravated harassment case, which is why it is essential to enlist the help of an accomplished Charleston attorney. They could make a major difference in the outcome of the case when handled properly.
Seek Help from an Aggravated Harassment Attorney in Charleston
Harassment charges are always serious, whether they are misdemeanors or felonies. The level of your case will depend on the facts and circumstances as well as any prior convictions. In either case, you need assistance from qualified legal counsel to effectively defend your rights.
A dedicated Charleston aggravated harassment lawyer is here to help you examine your case and fight for your freedom. Contact our office today to learn more about your legal rights.