Can Sending Text Messages be a Crime in Texas?

Can Sending Text Messages be a Crime in Texas?

Yes, it could be a crime if you send multiple text messages that annoy the recipient.

textingA person can commit the misdemeanor crime of Harassment by sending two or more electronic communications in a manner that is likely to harass, annoy, alarm, abuse, torment, embarrass, or offend the recipient. Doing this on multiple occasions is one of the ways a person can commit the crime of Stalking, which is a third degree felony.

Sending text messages can also amount to the criminal offense of Violation of Bond or Protective Order when communication with the message recipient is forbidden by either a protective order or by a condition of a jail-release bond in a case involving family violence, sexual assault, or stalking.


Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on a Harassment or Stalking case in Travis County.


What Should I do if I am Accused of Harassment or Stalking?

helpIt is important to consult a local criminal defense attorney if you have been charged with Harassment or Stalking.

You must take the case seriously because a conviction on your criminal record for these types of offenses can seriously damage your career opportunities. Depending on your field, a conviction for an offense like these could make you virtually unemployable.

Do not be surprised if your text messages are taken out of context such that they seem worse than they were meant. To provide the proper context, you may need to provide your attorney with a log of ALL messages you ever exchanged with the alleged victim. Yes, even those you never intended anyone else to see.

You could, and probably should, download one of the software applications that allow you to extract the text messages stored on your phone and save them to a computer. Many mobile phone companies do not save records of text messages so saving them to a computer gives you some protection if your mobile phone is lost, stolen, or accidentally damaged.


Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on a Harassment or Stalking case in Travis County.


What is the Punishment for Harassment or Stalking?

Harassment is usually a class B misdemeanor punishable by up to 180 days in the county jail and a fine up to $2,000. However, when a person has previously been convicted of Harassment, the charge is a class A misdemeanor punishable by as much as one year in the county jail and a fine up to $4,000.

handcuffsStalking is usually a third degree felony punishable by up to 10 years in the state penitentiary and a fine up to $10,000. However, when a person has previously been convicted of Stalking, the charge may be a second degree felony punishable by as much as 20 years in the state penitentiary and a fine up to $10,000. A conviction for Stalking will probably come with a Protective Order that prevents any contact between the defendant and alleged victim except through their attorneys. Also, convicted felons lose the right to possess a firearm or ammunition.

Probation may be an option depending on your criminal history. The maximum term of probation is 2 years for a misdemeanor and 10 years for a felony.


Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on a Harassment or Stalking case in Travis County.


What if I Receive Annoying Text Messages?

You may want to let the other person know that their messages make you feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended. If you report it to law enforcement, please be aware that, despite what you may have seen on TV, you can’t just “drop the charges” later if you change your mind.

texting-goodbyeAlso, remember that any person facing criminal charges has a constitutional right to a public jury trial. If you get law enforcement involved, you should be prepared to testify in open court about the private details of your relationship and the context of the text messages in question.

When text messaging rises to the level of Stalking, you have the option of seeking a Stalking Protective Order which would cause the person to be brought before a judge and potentially ordered to never contact you again. You could hire a private attorney, but the county prosecutor’s office may be willing to pursue the order at no cost to you. The prosecutor might also file criminal charges against the alleged stalker, so using a private attorney may be desirable if you want to minimize the chance of becoming a witness in a criminal case.

Disobeying a Stalking Protective Order order amounts to a new criminal offense called Violation of a Protective Order.

Note: A Stalking Protective Order is not one of the types of court orders that allows the protected party to break a lease.

Please be aware that if both you and the person sending the annoying text messages are parents of the same child, the person does have a legal right to reasonably communicate with you regarding the child. Consult a family law attorney for advice on situations involving the challenges of co-parenting.


Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on a Harassment or Stalking case in Travis County.


What Laws Apply to Annoying Text Messages?

Harassment is defined in Section 42.07 of the Texas Penal Code.

Stalking is defined in Section 42.072 of the Texas Penal Code.

A lifetime protective order based on Stalking is described in Chapter 7A of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

lawsNo-Contact and Keep-Away orders as a condition of probation in Stalking cases are issued in compliance with Article 42.12 Sec. 11(L)(1) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. Note: This part of the code will be re-organized in 2017.

Convicted felons and people under a stalking protective order are prohibited from possessing firearms or ammunition by US Code Title 18 Section 922(g).


Call (512) 480-9020 to hire us on a Harassment or Stalking case in Travis County.


Case Law

This section is provided for the benefit of other Texas criminal defense attorneys.

Admissibility of Text Messages

Tienda v. State, 358 S.W.3d 633 (Tex. Crim. App. 2012)
Aekins v. State, 447 S.W.3d 270 (Tex. Crim. App. 2014)
Butler v. State, 459 S.W.3d 595 (Tex. Crim. App. 2015)

First Amendment (Free Speech) & “Repeated” Communications

Scott v. State, 322 S.W.3d 662, (Tex. Crim. App. 2010)

 

Answers to other Frequently Asked Questions

We defend people accused of domestic assault in and around Austin, Texas.
For a quote, call (512) 480-9020 or email inquiry@pacefirm.com

 

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