What is telephone harassment?

I, along with several people in my office, have recently been subjected to harassing telephone calls. I work in a typical business where the “customers” that we deal with sometimes get unhappy with us based on the nature of our decisions. Recently, one individual in particular has been calling us repeatedly and saying nasty things over the phone. The comments made are certainly offensive, harassing, and border on threatening. I am wondering if this could be a crime and at what point these comments become criminal. Thanks so much!

The two primary criminal charges that seem to relate to this scenario are criminal threat and telephone harassment.

The crime of telephone harassment is codified in K.S.A. section 21-4113. It is actually a fairly broad statute and multiple acts involving telephone communication can qualify for criminal charges.

Telephone harassment may involve making a telephone call with the intent to “abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number” or using language that is “obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent.” It may also entail simply making repeated calls to the same person with the intent of harassing that person.

Violation of this statute is a class A nonperson misdemeanor. Thus, given your scenario above, it is very likely that the caller’s conduct falls within the ambit of this statute.

As applicable to the situation above, criminal threat is defined as any threat to “commit violence communicated with intent to terrorize another, or to cause the evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities of any building, place of assembly or facility of transportation, or in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or evacuation, lock down or disruption in regular, ongoing activities.” In plain terms, if a perpetrator intends to threaten another or should know that his actions will invoke fear in another, this constitutes criminal threat.

Criminal threat is a severity level 9, person felony. The fact pattern makes it less clear whether criminal threat is applicable in your case. Again, however, this statute is fairly broad and may cover the communication that you have received from the caller.

As a practical matter, sometimes these crimes are difficult to prove. If you have any harassing or threatening telephone messages that have been left, be sure to save them for later potential use in prosecution. It would be advisable to contact the police right away and let them handle the situation, especially if the problem persists.