What Is the Penalty for Harassment in New York?

Harassment comes in many disguises. It is an umbrella term that covers a wide range of actions that all have one thing in common—they are deeply offensive. Any unwanted, alarming, threatening activity which includes a clear intent to harm, demean, or disturb, and which occurs repeatedly, can qualify as harassment. 

The abuse can range from racial slurs, harassing phone calls, and other cases of verbal harassment, to cyberstalking, lewd comments, and sexual harassment. All these examples are considered a crime in the state of New York. A recent study uncovered that one in eight New York women experienced quid pro quo harassment at work, and that is just a drop in the sea of possible harassing behavior. 

What Constitutes Harassment in NYC?

New York City has a reputation of a place where you can experience harassment at every corner—from a person on the street yelling indecencies at you to a harassing neighbor that just won’t stop bothering you. The city’s poor image led to the introduction of severe harassment laws.

New York state harassment law is defined in New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law 240.21-240.32. It prohibits all kinds of actions carried out with the intention to harass, annoy, threaten, or disturb the general population. 

The law identifies four kinds of harassment, according to the severity of actions:

  • First-degree harassment
  • Second-degree harassment
  • Aggravated harassment in the first degree
  • Aggravated harassment in the second degree

Besides this, the New York state laws recognize a special aggravated harassment statute that regulates the harassment of prison employees and police officers by exposure to toilet water or bodily fluids. 

First-Degree Harassment According to NYS Harassment Laws

Under NY Penal Law, this type of harassment includes situations when a person repeatedly and deliberately harasses another person by:

  1. Following them in public
  2. Exhibiting behavior that puts the victim in reasonable fear of injury

First-degree harassment is classified as a class B misdemeanor. 

Harassment in the Second Degree 

The harassment of the second degree occurs when the perpetrator with malicious intent:

  1. Follows a person in a public space
  2. Causes alarm or annoys someone with no legitimate reason
  3. Strikes, attempts or threats to strike another person

Second-degree harassment is classified as a violation under NY Penal Law. 

Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree

This type of harassment is based on discrimination against people of different color, race, ethnicity, age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. Offenses treated as aggravated harassment in the first degree include:

  1. Damaging religious objects when the damage surpasses $50
  2. Placing a swastika on any object without getting previous approval from the owner
  3. Placing or depicting a noose on any object without the permission of the owner
  4. Burning a cross in public

Aggravated harassment in the first degree counts as a class E felony. 

Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree

This type of harassment includes abusive actions during which the perpetrator:

  1. Contacts the victim by phone, mail, or other written communication, anonymously or not, with an intent to abuse and annoy
  2. Makes a phone call, with or without initiating the conversation, with no intention to conduct legitimate communication
  3. Physically assaults the victim, primarily if the assault or a threat to strike is based on the victim belonging to one of the discrimination categories

This category applies to repeated harassment offenders, and it is considered a class A misdemeanor. 

Harassment Charges and Penalties in NY

Since the harassment charges in New York state are based on the classification of harassing actions, they differ in severity. Charges for harassment under the New York Penal Law can include jail time, fines or both. Here is an overview of the penalties applicable in different cases:

First-degree Harassment

  • Up to three months in prison
  • One-year probation
  • A fine of up to $500

Second-degree Harassment

  • 15 days in prison

Aggravated Harassment in the First Degree

  • Up to four years in prison
  • A fine of up to $5,000

Aggravated Harassment in the Second Degree

  • Up to one year in jail
  • Three-year probation
  • A fine of up to $1,000

New York harassment laws recognize third degree stalking as a special category when the perpetrator harasses someone and shows behavior that makes the victim fear injuries, sexual assault, death, or kidnapping. Stalking may target the victim or their family member. As a class A misdemeanor, third degree stalking is punishable by up to a year in prison and three-year probation. 

DoNotPay Can Provide Help With Harassment in NY

Fox details how DoNotPay makes it easier to fight companies by suing them in small claims court

DoNotPay is a great starting point for fixing a problem of someone harassing you or when you want to stop a stalker. Getting acquainted with local laws that offer protection against harassment is a great strategy, but in a lot of cases, you don’t have to take your harasser to court to make them stop abusing you. 

Finding your way around convoluted legal procedures is time-consuming and complicated. Hiring lawyers can burn quite a big hole in your pocket, with no guarantee of success. Many times, when dealing with harassment, a cease and desist letter will suffice. If you want to avoid unwanted attention from online stalkers, there are various tools that can help.

Providing help with serious issues like harassment and stalking is what DoNotPay does. The best thing is that you don’t have to go to the courtroom because you can get everything done from the comfort of your home. 

Here is how it works:

  1. Get DoNotPay in your web browser or by downloading the iOS app
  2. When you log in, select Relationship Protection
  3. Choose Safety and Stalking when our chatbot initiates the conversation
  4. Answer all the questions to help our virtual legal team select the best solution
  5. Add any other details that you find essential for your case

If you’re dealing with harassment in person, DoNotPay will write a custom-made cease and desist letter which you can send to the person who is bothering you incessantly. Cease and desist letters are effective means of putting an end to harassment as they specifically demand the harassing actions to stop and warn about possible legal consequences in case the perpetrator remains persistent. Most harassers chicken out after receiving one because they know you mean business.

In case you’re dealing with harassment on social media, DoNotPay will contact the representatives of virtual platforms where you receive unwanted attention so that they can report and block the harasser on your behalf. 

DoNotPay Can Help With More Than Harassment!

DoNotPay can make harassers leave you alone without reaching for a restraining order, but that is not all. Too many people go about their day wasting time and other resources on annoying bureaucratic problems that can be fixed in an instant with the help of the world’s first robot lawyer. 

Some people don’t even know they can bypass queues if they need to contact customer support or that they don’t have to pay for every single traffic ticket. Others waste time browsing the internet in search of solutions. 

With DoNotPay, you can forget about wasting your energy and paying for what you don’t have to. To get easy solutions for your issues with legal and administrative obstacles, access DoNotPay in your web browser or get the iOS app, and request help in just a few clicks or taps. DoNotPay can help you to: