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Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges (In Colorado Domestic Violence Cases)

By Denver Colorado Harassment Criminal Defense Lawyer H. Michael Steinberg

Colorado Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges in Domestic Violence Cases are best understood by – as I often recommend – going directly to the law – and analyzing it in lay terms…including the jury instructions that are read to the jury in a Colorado domestic violence crimes trial. 

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Harassment

A person commits harassment if with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or in a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; follows a person in or about a public place; initiates communication anonymously or otherwise by telephone, computer, computer network or computer system in a manner intended to threaten or harass…

or

….makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring continuously regardless of whether there is a conversation, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home, private residence, or private property; or repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response; 

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Stalking

A person commits stalking if directly or indirectly through another person , such person knowingly: repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person’s immediate family , or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship;

or

…makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has of has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues;

Here is a list of other common crimes that are charged in Colorado as “Domestic Violence”

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Third Degree Assault

A person commits assault in the third degree if the person knowingly or recklessly causes bodily injury to another person or with criminal negligence causes bodily injury to another person by means of a deadly weapon.

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Second Degree Kidnapping

Any person who knowingly seizes and carries any person from one place to another, without his consent and without lawful justification, commits second degree kidnapping. 

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of False Imprisonment

Any person who knowingly confines or detains another commits false imprisonment. 

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Criminal Mischief

Any person who knowingly damages the real or personal property of one or more other persons, including property owned by the person jointly with another person or property owned by the person in which another person has a possessory or propriety interest, in the course of a single criminal episode commits criminal mischief. And if this involves defacing property or damage to a motor vehicle your driver’s license will be revoked.    

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Obstructing Telephone Service

A person commits obstruction of telephone or telegraph service if the person knowingly prevents, obstructs, or delays, by any means whatsoever, the sending, transmission, conveyance or delivery in this state of any message, communication, or report by or through any telegraph or telephone line, wire, cable, or other facility or any cordless, wireless, electric, mechanical, or other device.

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Menacing

A person commits the crime of menacing if by any threat or physical  action, he or she knowingly places or attempt to place another in fear of imminent serious  bodily injury. Menacing is a class 3 misdemeanor, but, it is a class 5 felony if committed by the use of a deadly weapon or any article used or fashioned in a manner to cause a person to  reasonably believe that the article is a deadly weapon or by the suspect representing verbally or otherwise that he or she is armed with a deadly weapon

The Colorado Domestic Violence Crime Of Violation of Protection Order

A person commits the crime of violation of a protection order if, after the person has been personally served with a protection order that identifies the  person as a restrained person or otherwise has acquired from the court of law enforcement personnel actually knowledge of the contents of a protection order that  identifies the person as a restrained person, the person contacts, harasses, injures,  intimidates, molests, threatens, or touches the protected person or protected property,  including an animal, identified in the protection order or enters or remain on premises or  comes within a specified distance of the protected person, protected property, including  an animal, or premises or violates any other provision of the protection order to protect the protected person from imminent danger to life or health, and such conduct is prohibited by the protection order; or hires, employs, or otherwise contracts with another  person to locate or assist in the location of the protected person.. 

This Article Addresses the Colorado Crime of Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges In Colorado

In Colorado the crime of harassment can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.  Here is an analysis of the language of the misdemeanor portion of the law. Under Colorado criminal law 18-3-303- false imprisonment as a charge is often charged in Colorado domestic violence cases.  It is a “kitchen sink” type charge and for that reason – a closer look at how the crime is proven in Colorado and defenses to a conviction for harassment should be helpful to the person charged in such cases

The Law of Harassment As A Colorado Misdemeanor -18-9-111

1.A person commits harassment if, with intent to harass, annoy, or alarm another person, he or she:

(a) Strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise touches a person or subjects him to physical contact; or

(b) In a public place directs obscene language or makes an obscene gesture to or at another person; or

(c) Follows a person in or about a public place; or

….

(e) Initiates communication with a person, anonymously or otherwise by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system in a manner intended to harass or threaten bodily injury or property damage, or makes any comment, request, suggestion, or proposal by telephone, computer, computer network, or computer system that is obscene;

 or

(f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation; or

(g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property; or

(h) Repeatedly insults, taunts, challenges, or makes communications in offensively coarse language to, another in a manner likely to provoke a violent or disorderly response.

(1.5) As used in this section, unless the context otherwise requires, “obscene” means a patently offensive description of ultimate sexual acts or solicitation to commit ultimate sexual acts, whether or not said ultimate sexual acts are normal or perverted, actual or simulated, including masturbation, cunnilingus, fellatio, anilingus, or excretory functions.

2.Harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section is a class 3 misdemeanor; except that harassment is a class 1 misdemeanor if the offender commits harassment pursuant to subsection (1) of this section with the intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, or national origin.

3.Any act prohibited by paragraph (e) of subsection (1) of this section may be deemed to have occurred or to have been committed at the place at which the telephone call, electronic mail, or other electronic communication was either made or received.

The Law of Harassment As A Colorado Felony – Stalking – 18-9-111 (4)

The Colorado General Assembly has focused this law on what it believes to be the research on the domestic violence crime of stalking:

…..

4.(a) The general assembly hereby finds and declares that stalking is a serious problem in this state and nationwide. Although stalking often involves persons who have had an intimate relationship with one another, it can also involve persons who have little or no past relationship. A stalker will often maintain strong, unshakable, and irrational emotional feelings for his or her victim, and may likewise believe that the victim either returns these feelings of affection or will do so if the stalker is persistent enough. Further, the stalker often maintains this belief, despite a trivial or nonexistent basis for it and despite rejection, lack of reciprocation, efforts to restrict or avoid the stalker, and other facts that conflict with this belief.

A stalker may also develop jealousy and animosity for persons who are in relationships with the victim, including family members, employers and co-workers, and friends, perceiving them as obstacles or as threats to the stalker’s own “relationship” with the victim. Because stalking involves highly inappropriate intensity, persistence, and possessiveness, it entails great unpredictability and creates great stress and fear for the victim. Stalking involves severe intrusions on the victim’s personal privacy and autonomy, with an immediate and long-lasting impact on quality of life as well as risks to security and safety of the victim and persons close to the victim, even in the absence of express threats of physical harm.

The general assembly hereby recognizes the seriousness posed by stalking and adopts the provisions of this subsection (4) and subsections (5) and (6) of this section with the goal of encouraging and authorizing effective intervention before stalking can escalate into behavior that has even more serious consequences.”

(b) A person commits stalking if directly, or indirectly through another person, such person knowingly:

(I) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, or places under surveillance that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship;

or

(II) Makes a credible threat to another person and, in connection with such threat, repeatedly makes any form of communication with that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship, regardless of whether a conversation ensues; or

(III) Repeatedly follows, approaches, contacts, places under surveillance, or makes any form of communication with another person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship in a manner that would cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person, a member of that person’s immediate family, or someone with whom that person has or has had a continuing relationship to suffer serious emotional distress. For purposes of this subparagraph (III), a victim need not show that he or she received professional treatment or counseling to show that he or she suffered serious emotional distress.

Important Definitions That Apply To The Colorado Harassment – Stalking Law

(c) For the purposes of this subsection (4):

(I) Conduct “in connection with” a credible threat means acts which further, advance, promote, or have a continuity of purpose, and may occur before, during, or after the credible threat;

(II) “Credible threat” means a threat, physical action, or repeated conduct that would cause a reasonable person to be in fear for the person’s safety or the safety of his or her immediate family or of someone with whom the person has or has had a continuing relationship. Such threat need not be directly expressed if the totality of the conduct would cause a reasonable person such fear.

(III) “Immediate family” includes the person’s spouse and the person’s parent, grandparent, sibling, or child; and

(IV) “Repeated” or “repeatedly” means on more than one occasion.

5.Where a person commits stalking under paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of this section, the following shall apply:

[HMS -The Possible Punishment for Felony Stalking]

(a) A person commits a class 5 felony for a first offense.

(a.5) For a second or subsequent offense, if such offense occurs within seven years of the date of a prior offense for which such person was convicted, the offender commits a class 4 felony.

(a.7) Stalking is an extraordinary risk crime that is subject to the modified presumptive sentencing range specified in section 18-1.3-401 (10).

[HMS – Stalking – Other Aggravating Circumstances]

(b) If, at the time of the offense, there was a temporary or permanent protection order, injunction, or condition of bond, probation, or parole or any other court order in effect against such person prohibiting the behavior described in paragraph (b) of subsection (4) of this section, such person commits a class 4 felony.

In addition, when a violation under subsection (4) of this section is committed in connection with a violation of a court order, including but not limited to any protection order or any order that sets forth the conditions of a bond, any sentence imposed for such violation pursuant to this subsection (5) shall run consecutively and not concurrently with any sentence imposed pursuant to section 18-6-803.5 and with any sentence imposed in a contempt proceeding for violation of the court order.

Nothing in this paragraph (b) shall be construed to alter or diminish the inherent authority of the court to enforce its orders through civil or criminal contempt proceedings; however, before a criminal contempt proceeding is heard before the court, notice of the proceedings shall be provided to the district attorney for the district of the court where the proceedings are to be heard and the district attorney for the district of the court where the alleged act of criminal contempt occurred. The district attorney for either district shall be allowed to appear and argue for the imposition of contempt sanctions.

6. A peace officer shall have a duty to respond as soon as reasonably possible to a report of stalking and to cooperate with the alleged victim in investigating such report.

Colorado “Credible Threat” Harassment – Under § 18-9-111(4)(b)(I) – The Jury Instruction Of Law

To convict defendant of Credible Threat Harassment by Stalking under § 18-9-111(4)(b)(I), the jury is instructed it must find:

1. That the defendant,

2. In the State of Colorado, at or about the date and place charged

3. knowingly, made a credible threat to another person and,

4. in connection with such threat, knowingly, repeatedly followed, approached, contacted, or placed under surveillance that person

Colorado Emotional Distress Harassment by Stalking Under §18-9-111(4)(b)(III), – Jury Instruction Of Law

To convict defendant of Emotional Distress Harassment by Stalking under §18-9-111(4)(b)(III), the jury is instructed it must find:

1. That the defendant,

2. In the State of Colorado, at or about the date and place charged

3. knowingly, repeatedly followed, approached, contacted, placed under surveillance, or made any communication with another person

4. in a manner such that he was aware that his conduct was practically certain to cause a reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress

5. and caused that person to suffer serious emotional distress.

What The Is Serious Emotional Distress?

Section 18-9-111(4)(b)(III) requires the state to prove that prohibited conduct would cause a “reasonable person to suffer serious emotional distress and does cause that person … to suffer serious emotional distress.”

The concept of reasonableness is an integral ingredient of the objective measure of conduct and Colorado law requires proof of both subjective and objective components of serious emotional distress.

Colorado cases have found that certain changes in routine meet the distress requirement. In one case… 

“…. the victim testified that defendant’s behavior caused her to change her work schedule, take days off from work, and feel unsafe; she was nervous and had trouble sleeping; and she felt she was constantly being watched by defendant. The statute is clear that serious emotional distress need not be such as would compel professional treatment or a breakdown. The evidence thus is sufficient to support a finding beyond a reasonable doubt of serious emotional distress.”

Colorado “Phone” Harassment Laws

Phone Harassment can be a confusing and complex crime to prove for the state. The government is most likely in this kind of case – to accuse an innocent individual.

To be found guilty of this crime – phone harassment – in Colorado – the defendant:

(f) Makes a telephone call or causes a telephone to ring repeatedly, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate conversation;

or

(g) Makes repeated communications at inconvenient hours that invade the privacy of another and interfere in the use and enjoyment of another’s home or private residence or other private property;

Phone harassment pertains to obnoxious or threatening or harassing phone messages or text messages, aimed at tormenting an individual. Colorado also has a cyber-harassment or “cyberbullying laws in addition to the stand-alone phone harassment statutes.

Please call our law firm if you have questions about ..

Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges In Colorado

H. Michael Steinberg has been a Colorado criminal law specialist attorney for 30 years (as of 2012). For the First 13 years of his career, he was an Arapahoe – Douglas County District Attorney Senior  prosecutor. In 1999 he formed his own law firm for the defense of Colorado criminal cases.

In addition to handling tens of thousands of cases in the trial courts of Colorado, he has written hundreds of articles regarding the practice of Colorado criminal law and frequently provides legal analysis on radio and television, appearing on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Various National and Local Newspapers and Radio Stations.  Please call him at your convenience at 720-220-2277 

If you have questions about Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges In Colorado in the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg will be pleased to answer those questions and to provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters.

In the Denver metropolitan area and throughout Colorado, attorney H. Michael Steinberg provides quality legal representation to those charged in Colorado adult and juvenile criminal matters…Harassment – Stalking Criminal Charges In Colorado


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
A Denver, Colorado Lawyer Focused Exclusively On
Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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