What are my legal rights if I am being harassed?

Recently on our forum we had a user ask, "What are my legal rights if I am being harassed by a UPS driver?"

A charge of harassment is a very serious charge. Although you have the right to seek legal protection from abuse or harassment, you do not want to make a charge of harassment for actions which do not rise to this level. First, determine if the actions against you are true harassment. Next determine whether you have evidence to prove you are harassed, and if so, what type of protection you can legally request.

Common Types of Harassment

Domestic violence

One of the most common types of harassment is harassment from a family member. Domestic harassment can include any of the following actions:

  • Sexual assault
  • Physical assault
  • Fear of serious injury
  • Stalking
  • Threatening
  • Destruction of property
  • Disturbing the peace

Perpetuators of domestic violence or assault can include married or domestic partners, ex-spouses, boyfriends or girlfriends, or any other relative including a parent, sister, grandparent or brother. If you are the victim of domestic violence you can contact the police and request an immediate protective order.

Civil Harassment

If you are being harassed by someone who is not a family member this is considered civil harassment. Actions which can be considered harassment include stalking, sexual assault, threats of abuse, battery, or threats to scare or annoy.

What if someone is threatening you but they have not done anything to you? This is a gray area, but generally the law requires the threat to be credible and scary enough that a "reasonable" person would fear for their safety. Common behaviors which have constituted threatening actions have included harassing phone calls and harassing messages by email or mail.

Workplace Violence

Workplace harassment is similar to civil harassment, but the actions are taking place specifically at the person's place of employment. If you are the victim of workplace harassment it's time to talk to your employer. The employer should be able to get a workplace violence restraining order on your behalf if they can prove you have been harassed (i.e. assaulted, battered, or stalked).

Consider however, the conduct will not be harassment if the accused is performing a constitutionally protected activity. For example, if you are offended by another person's praying or reading of their Bible at work this will not rise to the level of harassment.

Criminal charges for harassment

If you are physically injured or the actions of the accused are criminal in nature you need to talk to the police immediately. If there is sufficient evidence (for instance you have been assaulted and you are physically injured) the police will charge the accused with a crime. If the accused is convicted they will face penalties such as fines, probation and jail.

Civil Charges for harassment

If you have been injured due to the criminal or negligent actions of another person, you may also have a right to file a civil case against them. If you win your civil case the defendant could be required to compensate you for your losses. Civil cases can be filed and won even if the state ultimately decides not to prosecute someone for a crime.

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