In the world outside of the courtroom there is little difference between the words bothering and harassing.  They are often used interchangeably, and in modern language the word harass has taken on a meaning more closely resembling annoy than some sort of criminal conduct.  But in the legal world, harassment is a crime that could have serious consequences for anyone who is convicted or even charged.  Although there are numerous legitimate complaints for harassment each year in Maryland, the percentage of frivolous complaints is higher than with most crimes.  And keep in mind that all it takes for police to initiate an arrest for this crime is testimony from the victim.  There is no requirement that the police have any sort of non-biased testimony or physical evidence proving that the defendant is guilty.  This can create major problems for a defendant who is faced with dealing with an embarrassing and potentially permanent legal situation.   The criminal lawyers at The Herbst Firm have experience defending clients charged with harassment, and understand what it takes to get this charge dismissed.  We are also more than willing to take your case all the way to trial if necessary.  Before we can determine the best course of action for your case it is important to provide a better understanding of the actual elements of this offense.

In order to gain a conviction in a case of harassment, the state must prove that the defendant followed another in or about a public place, or that the defendant maliciously engaged in a course of conduct that alarmed or seriously annoyed another.  Though proving this sort of conduct alone will not be sufficient to sustain a conviction, as the government also must prove intent on the part of the defendant.  The defendant must have intended to harass, alarm, or annoy another after receiving a reasonable warning or request to stop.  Receiving this request to stop is an essential element, and therefore if the victim did not tell the defendant to stop the conduct, then the case should be dismissed.  The government must also prove that the conduct did not have a legal purpose.  There are a few exceptions to the harassment law, including peaceable activity that is intended to express a political view or provide information to others.  This language does leave something up for interpretation, and could be used as a successful defense in many instances.

The maximum penalty for harassment conviction under Maryland law is 90 days in jail and a $500 fine.  Because the penalty does not exceed 90 days, the defendant will not be entitled to a trial by jury.  This does somewhat limit what sort of approach a defendant and his or her lawyer may take at trial, and we are prepared to advise you on each of these limitations.  In addition to jail time, perhaps the harshest consequence of this crime is having a permanent conviction on your criminal record.  We understand how detrimental a permanent conviction can be, and are committed to fighting as hard as possible to avoid this scenario.  Contact the firm anytime, and let us begin planning your defense.
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