Harassment

Harassment is a crime which can take place through multiple forms of communication.  It can be through verbal communication, written communication, e-mail, or over a telephone (including text messages).

So what makes it Harassment?

Harassment is communication made with the intent to offend the other person.  Case law in Illinois differentiates harassment from persistent communication as the continuation of communication after the individual has been told to stop.  Here are a couple examples.

  • Example 1: Jane has been receiving phone calls from an unknown person who won’t identify theirself.  The person makes her uncomfortable, so she tells them to stop calling.  If this person does not stop calling, they are committing telephone harassment.
  • Example 2: John and Jane recently broke up and John is very upset.  Jane told him to stop calling her because she doesn’t want to see him anymore.  John continues to call and/or text message her while asking her to talk to him.  John is committing harassment by telephone and/or e-mail.
  • Example 3: John finds out that Sam is seeing Jane now, and this makes him upset.  If John calls Sam with the intent of threatening him, this is harassment by telephone.

All of these examples can apply to any other form of communication, it is not limited to communication by telephone.

Harassment charges range from a class B misdemeanor for initial offenses, to class 4 felonies for repeat offenders.

What is the legal definition of Harassment?

(720 ILCS 135/1) (from Ch. 134, par. 16.4)

Sec. 1. Any person in this State who 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 is guilty of a Class B misdemeanor. The use of language or terms which are obscene, lewd or immoral is prima facie evidence of the intent to offend.

(Source: P.A. 77‑2620.)

(720 ILCS 135/1‑1) (from Ch. 134, par. 16.4‑1)

Sec. 1‑1. Harassment by telephone). Harassment by telephone is use of 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; or

(2) Making a telephone call, whether or not

conversation ensues, with intent to abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number; or

(3) Making or causing the telephone of another

repeatedly to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number; or

(4) Making repeated telephone calls, during which

conversation ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number; or

(4.1) 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

(5) Knowingly permitting any telephone under one’s

control to be used for any of the purposes mentioned herein.

Every telephone directory published for distribution to members of the general public shall contain a notice setting forth a summary of the provisions of this Section. Such notice shall be printed in type which is no smaller than any other type on the same page and shall be preceded by the word “WARNING”. All telephone companies in this State shall cooperate with law enforcement agencies in using their facilities and personnel to detect and prevent violations of this Act.

(Source: P.A. 91‑878, eff. 1‑1‑01.)

(720 ILCS 135/1‑2)

(Text of Section from P.A. 95‑849)

Sec. 1‑2. Harassment through electronic communications.

(a) Harassment through electronic communications is the use of 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;

(3.1) 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;

(4) 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

(5) Knowingly permitting any electronic

communications device to be used for any of the purposes mentioned in this subsection (a).

(b) As used in this Act:

(1) “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 by a computer through the Internet to another computer.

(2) “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 Act, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship.

(c) Telecommunications carriers, commercial mobile service providers, and providers of information services, including, but not limited to, Internet service providers and hosting service providers, are not liable under this Section, except for willful and wanton misconduct, by virtue of the transmission, storage, or caching of electronic communications or messages of others or by virtue of the provision of other related telecommunications, commercial mobile services, or information services used by others in violation of this Section.

(Source: P.A. 95‑849, eff. 1‑1‑09.)

(Text of Section from P.A. 95‑984)
Sec. 1‑2. Harassment through electronic communications.

(a) Harassment through electronic communications is the use of 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;

(3.1) 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;

(4) 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

(5) Knowingly permitting any electronic

communications device to be used for any of the purposes mentioned in this subsection (a).

(a‑5) Telecommunications carriers, commercial mobile service providers, and providers of information services, including, but not limited to, Internet service providers and hosting service providers, are not liable under this Section, except for willful and wanton misconduct, by virtue of the transmission, storage, or caching of electronic communications or messages of others or by virtue of the provision of other related telecommunications, commercial mobile services, or information services used by others in violation of this Section.

(b) As used in this Act:

(1) “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 by a computer through the Internet to another computer.

(2) “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 Act, neither a casual acquaintanceship nor ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in business or social contexts shall be deemed to constitute a dating relationship.

(Source: P.A. 95‑984, eff. 6‑1‑09.)

(720 ILCS 135/1‑3)

Sec. 1‑3. Evidence inference. Evidence that a defendant made additional telephone calls or engaged in additional electronic communications after having been requested by a named complainant or by a family or household member of the complainant to stop may be considered as evidence of an intent to harass unless disproved by evidence to the contrary.

(Source: P.A. 90‑578, eff. 6‑1‑98.)

Partial statute quoted from the Illinois Compiled Statutes.  Please visit this link to read the statute in its entirety.

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