Annoying, Harassing and Obscene Phone Calls
Making harassing telephone calls is a crime under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 269 Section 14A. To convict a defendant of this crime, the prosecutor must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant repeatedly made telephone calls or caused calls to be made. “Repeatedly’ means three or more times.
- The defendant’s only purpose in making or causing the telephone calls to be made was to annoy, molest or harass the other person or the other person’s family. Even if a defendant’s repeated calls are annoying, they are not criminal unless his only purpose is harassment. All of the relevant circumstances, including the defendant’s acts or statements and the number, sequence or timing of calls, can be used to determine the defendant’s purpose.
It does not matter whether or not the telephone calls resulted in a conversation as long as they were made.
That law also proscribes making obscene telephone calls. To convict a defendant of making obscene telephone calls, the prosecutor must prove that:
- The defendant repeatedly made telephone calls. “Repeatedly” means three or more times. If the calls are anonymous, they can be linked to the defendant by circumstantial evidence including their timing, mode, content and similarity to the defendant’s conduct.
- The defendant used obscene or indecent language in those telephone calls. “Obscene” means appealing to an average citizen’s prurient interest, describing sexual conduct in a way that would offend an average citizen, and having no real artistic, literary, political or scientific value. Indecent means deeply offensive to current norms of decency. This element only requires that the defendant was generally aware of the nature of his language. It does not require that the defendant knew that his language was legally obscene or indecent.
The crime of making harassing or obscene telephone calls is punishable by a fine of up to $500 or imprisonment for up to three months, or both.Is The Crime of Making Annoying and Harassing Phone Calls a Basis for the Issuance of a Restraining Order in Massachusetts?
I get this question from perspective clients often. The simple answer to this question is no unless the content of the calls satisfies the requirements for the issuance of a restraining order. However, complaining witnesses often incorrectly believe that such phone calls serve as a basis for their request that a restraining order issue. They are wrong. The problem is that judges frequently issue restraining orders without regard for the applicable law. They find it easier to issue the order than not to, especially in instances where the accused in not represented by counsel. This is another example of where going into court without proper representation can be a big mistake.
Making harassing or obscene telephone calls is a serious charge, not only because of the potential punishments, but also because it may seriously damage your reputation. If you are charged with this offense, you should promptly retain the services of a knowledgeable and experienced defense attorney. The Law Offices of Stephan Neyman, P.C. has more than twenty years experience fighting criminal charges in Massachusetts and throughout the country. Call our Law Office today for your initial consultation at 1-617-263-6800 or contact us online. Si usted habla espanol contacta nuestro asistente de abogado Maria Rivera en 617-877-6270.
Newton District Court: Pretrial Probation for Non-Citizen Graduate Student Charged With Annoying and Molesting Phone Calls
The defendant is a non-citizen working towards a doctorate degree at a local well respected university. In September of 2017 she and her landlord became entangled in a dispute involving destruction to the property and rent issues. The matter escalated and the defendant began calling the victim incessantly, using profanity and making threats. The victim called the police. A subpoena was issued enabling the authorities to obtain cell phone information. Those documents corroborated the victim's belief that our client was the person making the calls. The police ultimately made contact with our client and obtained her confession. She was charged with violating G.L. c. 269 Section 14A, a misdemeanor that does provide a possible jail sentence. Attorney Neyman was hired. Today, he secured pretrial probation under G.L. c. 276 Section 87 for the woman. All charges will be dismissed in a few months. More importantly, there will be no impact on her immigration status.
Read More in Pretrial Probation
Springfield, Massachusetts man charged with four counts of Obscene Telephone Calls given pre-trial probation
Dudley District Court: The prosecution alleged that in January of 2011 police were dispatched to an address for a complaint of a woman receiving sexually explicit telephone calls. The caller was using a blocked telephone line and the woman had no idea who was making the calls. An administrative subpoena issued and the calls were traced to a young man's phone. The man lived in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was charged with four counts of making Obscene Telephone Calls. Attorney Neyman convinced the district attorney to agree to pre-trial probation. The charges will be dismissed in their entirety in a few months.
Complaints of Restraining Order (209A) Violations , Criminal Harassment and Annoying Telephone Calls not issued after clerk's hearing
South Boston District Court: Police applied for three complaints against our client. In one, it was alleged that he was parked outside of his ex-girlfriend's apartment in violation of an existing restraining order. In another, it was alleged that our client violated the restraining order on a different occasion by making several phone calls and sending e-mail and Facebook messages. Additionally, it was alleged that on yet another occasion, our client called this woman 30 times in a 24 hour period and followed a pizza delivery man into her apartment building to bang on her door. Denise Dolan of our office represented our client at a clerk's hearing. Two of these applications were dismissed and one was continued to be dismissed in 7 months.