The state of Illinois defines the various crimes of harassment through different means of communication in 720 ILCS 5/26.5-0.1. To understand IL harassment it is first important to review the definition of various terms that have been defined by Illinois law:
“Electronic communication” means any transfer of signs, signals, writings, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectric or photo-optical system. “Electronic communication” includes transmissions through an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, cellular phone, computer, or pager, which communication includes, but is not limited to, e-mail, instant message, text message, or voice mail.
“Family or household member” includes spouses, former spouses, parents, children, stepchildren and other persons related by blood or by present or prior marriage, persons who share or formerly shared a common dwelling, persons who have or allegedly share a blood relationship through a child, persons who have or have had a dating or engagement relationship, and persons with disabilities and their personal assistants. For purposes of this Article, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship.
“Harass” or “harassing” means knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose that is reasonable under the circumstances, that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress and does cause emotional distress to another.
(Source: P.A. 97-1108, eff. 1-1-13.)
The Illinois crime of Transmission of obscene messages is defined in 720 ILCS 5/26.5-1 as the crime committed when one sends messages or uses language or terms which are obscene, lewd or immoral with the intent to offend by means of or while using a telephone or telegraph facilities, equipment or wires of any person, firm or corporation engaged in the transmission of news or messages between states or within the State of Illinois.
The Illinois crime of Harassment by telephone is defined by 720 ILCS 5/26.5-2 as the crime a person commits when he or she uses telephone communication for any of the following purposes:
(1) Making any comment, request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent with an intent to offend;
(2) Making a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, with intent to abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number;
(3) Making or causing the telephone of another repeatedly to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number;
(4) Making repeated telephone calls, during which conversation ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number;
(5) Making a telephone call or knowingly inducing a person to make a telephone call for the purpose of harassing another person who is under 13 years of age, regardless of whether the person under 13 years of age consents to the harassment, if the defendant is at least 16 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense; or
(6) Knowingly permitting any telephone under one’s control to be used for any of the purposes mentioned herein.
The Illinois crime of Harassment through electronic communications is defined by 720 ILCS 5/26.5-3 as the crime committed when A person commits harassment through electronic communications when he or she uses electronic communication for any of the following purposes:
(1) Making any comment, request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene with an intent to offend;
(2) Interrupting, with the intent to harass, the telephone service or the electronic communication service of any person;
(3) Transmitting to any person, with the intent to harass and regardless of whether the communication is read in its entirety or at all, any file, document, or other communication which prevents that person from using his or her telephone service or electronic communications device;
(4) Transmitting an electronic communication or knowingly inducing a person to transmit an electronic communication for the purpose of harassing another person who is under 13 years of age, regardless of whether the person under 13 years of age consents to the harassment, if the defendant is at least 16 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense;
(5) Threatening injury to the person or to the property of the person to whom an electronic communication is directed or to any of his or her family or household members; or
(6) Knowingly permitting any electronic communications device to be used for any of the purposes mentioned in this subsection (a).
Most first-offense harassment charges in Illinois are Class B misdemeanors, meaning the maximum penalty is up to 6 months in the county jail. Second-offense harassment charges in Illinois are generally Class A misdemeanors, which can be punished by up to a year in the county jail. On a second conviction, the court in IL must also impose either a jail term of at least 14 days or 240 hours of community service.
However, there are also several ways in which a harassment charge in Illinois can be a felony charge. These include but are not limited to the following:
- If the defendant has 3 or more previous convictions for harassment in the last 10 years.
- If the defendant was out on bond, on parole, on probation, etc.
- If a death threat was made.
- If the defendant has a prior forcible felony conviction in the last 10 years.
- If the alleged victim was under 18 years old and the defendant was over 18 years old.
In addition to the normal sentencing options that are available to the court, the court in Illinois can also order a person convicted of harassment to submit to a psychiatric examination.
Harassment is a serious charge in Illinois that can carry with it a variety of negative consequences. For that reason any person who is being investigated for or accused of harassment should promptly consult with an attorney, so as to protect their legal interests.
Tags for this legal blog article: 720 ILCS 5/26.5-0.1, 720 ILCS 5/26.5-1, 720 ILCS 5/26.5-2, 720 ILCS 5/26.5-3, Harassment, Harassment by telephone, Harassment through electronic communications, Transmission of obscene messages