September 11, 2023
Over the past couple of decades, texting has become a vital part of our daily lives. With just a press of a button, we can now get in touch with anyone almost anywhere in the world. It’s quick, it’s handy, and, best of all, it’s affordable.
Unfortunately, there are a few people who take advantage of its convenience and usability. If it falls into the wrong hands, they can use it to harm others.
Under Texas law, harassment is defined as ‘repeated or unwanted contact.’ This contact can be person-to-person, via the Internet, or through text messages.
If you or someone you know is the victim of harassing instant messages, you’ve come to the right place. In this post, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about text harassment in Texas and what you need to do to protect yourself, such as contacting a criminal defense attorney.
What Is Considered Text Harassment in Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code 42.07(b)(1) which went into effect on September 1, 2017, text harassment falls under the definition of electronic communications.
This type of communication refers to the “transfer of writing, signals, signs, images, data, sounds, or intelligence of any nature.” These transfers can be “made in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-optical, or photoelectronic.”
If they’re sent with the intent to embarrass, torment, abuse, annoy, or alarm someone, then they’re automatically considered by Texas law as text harassment.
Even if the sender was just ‘joking around’ when they sent the text, a jury could still find them guilty of text harassment. It all comes down to the state of mind of the person at the time of the communication and the level of harassment in the texts.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s considered text harassment in the eye of the law:
● False Report: This is the act of conveying a false report via text that someone has suffered death or severe bodily harm in a manner that causes the recipient to be genuinely alarmed.
● Obscene Communication: The act of initiating communication via text and making a suggestion, request, or comment that’s considered indecent or improper.
● Threatening Communication: Any type of threatening communication carried out electronically via text is considered a form of harassment.
What Are the Penalties for Text Harassment in Texas?
According to the Texas Penal Code and recent electronic harassment law, text harassment is considered a class B misdemeanor offense. It’s punishable by a maximum of 180 days in county jail as well as a fine of up to $2,000.
If the harasser has a previous conviction of harassment charges or a criminal record, it could result in an increased penalty of up to 12 months in county jail and a $4,000 fine.
How to Report Harassing Text Messages to Law Enforcement
Texas harassment laws claim that text messages don’t need to be particularly threatening to qualify as harassing. They can range from spam-like to downright abusive.
Regardless of the form these instant messages come in, the recipient has every right to take legal action if they experience reasonable fear or anxiety.
Take a look:
Save the Texts
Take a screenshot of the text on your mobile device. If saving a screenshot isn’t an option, you can use a camera on another device to take photos of the text.
Another thing you can do is protect or lock the concerning messages on your device to prevent them from being accidentally erased. Then, create backups of the actual text messages in the event you lose your device or they get deleted in a system update.
Download the Call Records for Your Mobile Device
Another way to save the texts is to go to your mobile account and download the call record. You can check online for information on how to retrieve phone records based on the make and model of your device. Or, you can contact your mobile provider and order complete transcripts.
Once you have them, save them and create two hard copies of the records that show the harassing texts. Keep one copy and give the other one to the police.
Using a highlighter, mark the concerning messages to tally their number.
It’s better not to reply to any harassing texts. Responding in anger or frustration will only lead to more hateful texts and possibly cause an already volatile situation to escalate.
Rather than trying to put an end to the harassment on your own, it’s better to leave it to law enforcement officers to handle the situation.
Contact the Police
With your highlighted call records in tow, go to your local police station. Tell the officer at the front desk you’d like to meet with the detective in charge.
If the officer asks you what it’s about, keep your reply short and to the point. Avoid calling your alleged harasser names or becoming emotional. It won’t win you any points with the officer and may end up doing more harm than good.
If the detective isn’t available, ask for their name and contact details. Then, call them to see when they can be available for a meeting.
Speak with a Lawyer who Specializes in Criminal Law
If you don’t know who your harasser is, neither the detective nor the mobile carrier can do anything about it unless you file a police report first. The report is necessary to issue a subpoena, which is the only way the mobile carrier can reveal the identity of the sender.
If you do know who your harasser is, you may also consider filing a civil complaint about them. For that, you’ll need an experienced attorney to pursue your harasser in civil court.
They can help explain your rights and answer questions concerning your case.
Protect Your Mobile Phone Number
Treat your mobile phone number as you would any part of your identity. Avoid sharing it online or posting it on social media.
Sharing your number with strangers on the internet increases your chances of being the victim of bullying texts.
If you’re being bullied or harassed by pesky or abusive text messages, you now know what you need to do to report what’s happening to law enforcement. After filing a police report, they can investigate your case and bring the harassment to a stop.
You’ll also need to call a skilled cybercrime lawyer who has experience dealing with text harassment cases in Texas. They can help convict the harasser and get you the peace of mind you need.