Unfortunately, harassment of all types has been in the news recently. These behaviors range from childish and immature to dangerous and criminal. While protecting yourself from harassing or unwanted behavior is certainly important, understanding the difference between the common knowledge and legal definitions of harassment is important before determining an appropriate course of action.
The common knowledge definition of harassment, according to the Cambridge English Dictionary, is “behavior that annoys or troubles someone.” This is obviously quite broad and can encompass lots of behavior open to interpretation. Something that may be done innocently or without any malicious intent could be perceived by others as annoying or troubling.
The legal definition, on the other hand, is more specific. Under Minn. Stat. 609.748, Subd. 1(a), harassment includes:
- A single incident of physical or sexual assault;
- A single incident of stalking;
- A single incident of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images;
- Repeated incidents of intrusive or unwanted acts, words, or gestures that have a substantial adverse effect or are intended to have a substantial adverse effect on the safety, security or privacy of another, regardless of the relationship between the actor and the intended target;
- Targeted residential picketing; and
- A pattern of attending public events after being notified that the actor’s presence at the event is harassing to another.
Additionally, courts in Minnesota require that harassment involved objectively unreasonable acts or intent.
In short, behavior that you may find annoying, unpleasant, unwelcome or troublesome, may not meet the legal definition of harassment. However, if you have been the target of legal harassment, one remedy is petitioning the court for a harassment restraining order. Or if someone has made an allegation against you that does not meet the legal definition of harassment, you will need to defend yourself in order to avoid having your liberty restrained by a harassment restraining order. If you find yourself in either situation, give one of the attorneys at Brandt Criminal Defense a call at 763.421.6366 for a free consultation.