Criminal harassment legal definitions vary from state to state. A general legal definition of criminal harassment is any action taken by one person to alarm, annoy, terrorize or torment another human being and cause them to be in fear for their safety.
When someone is charged for harassment, the court takes into account the means of communication between the accused and the victim and also considers whether or not the communication was necessary. Harassment charges may range from misdemeanors to felonies. An accused person who has previously been convicted of criminal harassment, or one who violates a restraining order while harassing another, is likely to face a more serious harassment charge than a first-time offender. Those facing harassment charges and have prior convictions for domestic violence or threats of violence are likely to face more serious harassment charges as well.
Some states prosecute separately for stalking and harassment, others do not and instead classify stalking as a form of harassment. Those who feel that they are being harassed or stalked may petition the court to grant them a restraining order or order of protection, a legal document that forbids the accused harasser to attempt to make any contact with them.