Harassing or Obscene Telephone Calls

Massachusetts takes seriously the crimes that annoy, harass and accost other individuals. Not only is criminal harassment a serious offense, but the Commonwealth also makes the harassment by telephone or electronic communication a separate offense. Section 14A of Chapter 269 of M. G. L. dictates that whoever telephones another person or contacts another person by electronic communication, or causes a person to be telephoned or contacted by electronic communication, repeatedly, for the sole purpose of harassing, annoying or molesting the person or the person’s family, whether or not conversation ensues, or whoever telephones or contacts a person repeatedly by electronic communication and uses indecent or obscene language to the person, shall be punishable under the law. This crime is separated into two definitive acts, either (1) the defendant made harassing telephone calls or electronic communications with the alleged victim, or (2) the defendant made repeated and obscene telephone calls or electronic communications with the alleged victim. A conviction of either part of this offense shall result in the following penalties:
  • A fine of not more than  $500, or
  • Imprisonment for not more than 3 months, or
  • Both such fine and imprisonment.
For the purposes of this section, electronic communication shall be taken to include any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photo-electronic, or photo-optical system.

In order for the prosecution to convict a defendant for making harassing telephone calls or electronic communications, they must be able to prove the following two elements of the crime:
  1. The defendant either made telephone calls to, caused telephone calls to be made to, contacted by electronic communication, or caused contact by electronic communication to the alleged victim repeatedly (three of more times); and
  2. The defendants sole purpose in making or having telephone calls be made, or contacting or causing electronic communication to be made was either to harass, annoy, or molest the alleged victim or his or her family.
For purposes of this crime, the Commonwealth is not required to show that the defendant has an actual conversation or made contact with the alleged victim. They must only show that the defendant made the telephone calls, had the telephone calls made, made the contacts by electronic communication, or had the contacts made by electronic communication.

Under Section 14A of Ch. 269, a defendant may also be charged with making repeated and obscene telephone calls or electronic communications with the alleged victim if that person uses indecent or obscene language. In order for the prosecution to secure a guilty conviction for this offense, they must be able to prove the following two elements of the crime:
  1. The defendant made telephone calls to or contacted by electronic communications with the alleged victim repeatedly (three or more times); and
  2. In making those calls or electronic communications, the defendant used indecent and obscene language.
For the purposes of this crime, it is not necessary that the defendant specifically knew or believed that his or her language was legally indecent or obscene. It is only necessary that such language was in fact indecent and obscene, and that the defendant knew the general character of what he or she was saying.

Determined Boston Area Harassment Attorney
No one deserves to experience the harmful effects of harassment. You should be free to live and work in a healthy and safe environment. If you feel you are experiencing harassment by telephone or electronic communication, get help. On the other hand, if you feel that the service of a restraining order, abuse prevention order, or criminal charge is unjust or inaccurate, please do not hesitate to contact us. Your rights can be asserted, but you must take the steps necessary to protect them. The Law Office of Patrick J. Murphy has 18 years of experienced in fighting for and protecting the rights of people that have been accused of Massachusetts harassment crimes.  For a free and confidential assessment of you case, please call 617-367-0450 or completing the contact form on our website.

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