When Does Communication Cross the Line to CO Harassment?

Sometimes, you can communicate with people who find you annoying. If you’re being persistent, then they may find you really annoying. But when does that annoyance and persistence cross over the line into harassment under the law?

It’s a good question. But what is even better: Colorado spells out pretty clearly when simply communicating with another person crosses a line into something illegal – something that falls under the umbrella of domestic violence.

Here’s what you need to know about harassment laws in Colorado, when it crosses the line, and what penalties a person who is convicted of harassment can potentially face.

Harassment: What Is It?

Under Colorado law, there are several things a person can do that constitute harassment. Contacting someone through text is one way, and perhaps one of the most common, but there are others, such as:

  • Calling them on the phone repeatedly, even if you don’t talk
  • Touching someone in a specific way, such as shoving or striking them
  • Directing obscene gestures or language toward another person in public
  • Following someone in public
  • Repeatedly insulting someone in a way that will provoke them

The key for any of these actions to constitute harassment, however, is that they must be done purposefully and knowingly in an attempt to annoy, alarm, or harass the other person. If you had no intention of harassing someone, then it’s not harassment at all.

Harassment Under the Law: Felony or Misdemeanor?

Currently, harassment is a Class 3 misdemeanor under Colorado law. However, Colorado recently changed their Misdemeanor sentencing scheme, and that change will begin on March 1, 2022.  So any Harassment that occurs before March 1, 2022, will be a Class 3 Misdemeanor, and you can face up to 180 days in jail and be responsible for fines.  If the class was an act of domestic violence, you could also be required to take a class.  Starting on March 1, 2022, Harassment will be categorized as a Class 2 Misdemeanor with a maximum jail sentence of 120 days.

In instances where a person was harassed due to their national origin, race, ethnicity, or religion, then it can be a Class 1 misdemeanor – which means more time in jail and perhaps a higher penalty.  Any offense committed prior to March 1, 2022, is punishable by a maximum of up to 18 months in jail, and any offense committed after March 1, 2022, is punishable by a maximum of 364 days in jail, along with fines and courts costs under both sentencing schemes.

Are There Defenses to Harassment?

For anyone who is looking to defend themselves against harassment charges, an experienced attorney can help. They can look at the details of your case and help you to formulate the best defense. It is up to the prosecution to show evidence to the court that you perpetrated harassment. The burden of proof does not rest with you.

There are some common defenses used against harassment charges, such as:

Credibility Issues

If the person who is accusing you of harassment is someone with which you have a history, particularly if you’ve had an argument, then it may not be out of the realm of possibility that they accused you of harassment in anger. Your attorney can call into question the credibility of the charges against you easily in those cases.

Are There Defenses to Harassment in Colorado Springs?

Right to Share Space

If you are accused of following someone in public, and there is no restraining or protective order against you, then it can be difficult for the prosecution to prove that you were actually following that person. After all, you have as much right to be in a public space as they do.

Self Defense

If you have been accused of physical harassment – shoving someone, for example – then your attorney may be able to claim self-defense on your behalf. It can also be argued that it was just an accident. It all depends on the details of your particular case.


About the Author:

Andrew Bryant is a well-respected Colorado Springs criminal attorney who has been practicing in the area for years. A Colorado native, he returned to the home he loves after graduating from the University of Kentucky College of Law. Now, he uses the knowledge he gained as an El Paso County District Attorney to fight tirelessly for his clients’ rights. He is AV-Preeminent rated, has been recognized for his work by The National Trial Lawyers, and has been named to Best of the Springs lists by The Gazette for years.