Telephone and Email Misuse

Telephone and Email MisusePolice officers and court commissioners have a definite bias against domestic cases.  We have seen hundreds of instances where police make a domestic violence arrest with little or no evidence that a crime was committed.  This is even true when neither party wants to pursue criminal charges.  Police will always err on the side of making an arrest rather than leave the scene empty handed, and unfortunately this results in numerous wrongful arrests and prosecutions.  Additionally court commissioners rarely reject charging documents submitted by civilians in domestic cases, regardless of the lack of independent evidence.  This practice does not only apply to crimes of violence such as assault, but also to non-violent charges such as electronic mail harassment and telephone misuse.

Telephone misuse is a surprisingly common domestic charge, and we have seen a large amount of these cases lately.  The statute is quite vague, which typically allows police and commissioners to issue charging documents under a wide range of facts.  Maryland law prohibits a person from using a telephone from making anonymous calls to annoy, torment, harass, or embarrass another.  It also prohibits a person from making repeated calls to harass or annoy another.  There is no specific requirement for the number of calls in either the section dedicated to anonymous calls or where the caller is known.  Basically the police and or judicial officer can make the determination.  The phone misuse law also prohibits a person from making a comment or proposal over the phone that is obscene, lewd, or indecent.  It technically would only take one call to violate this section of the statute.  A person who is charged with this offense faces a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of three years in jail, and the charging documents can theoretically include separate counts for each call.  We have seen cases where a defendant is charged with as many as ten counts where there is one single alleged victim.

Misuse of electronic mail is another similar crime, which is often charged in domestic settings.  But this offense is also common in cases where the two parties are merely acquaintances, or in some instances where the two parties do not even know each other.  Misuse of email is a misdemeanor under Maryland law with a maximum penalty of one year in jail, and like telephone misuse, the defendant often faces multiple counts.  The law prohibits a person from using email to harass another person, or from emailing obscene material to another.  Again this is a fairly general statute, and the terms harass and obscene material are left up for interpretation by the police, court commissioner, and the state’s attorney.  And typically when you give any of these parties the decision to make, they will usually find that a crime occurred.

Both telephone misuse and electronic mail misuse are serious offenses that could result in jail time and a permanent criminal conviction.  These are two charges that are common with first time offenders, and are also a common cause of a violation of probation.  If you have been charged or are on probation for either of these offenses it is important to retain an attorney with skill and experience defending these charges.  Benjamin Herbst is available 24 hours a day to discuss your case, and is ready to fight for you at all costs.
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