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What Everyone Should Know About Crank Calls and Stalking

Aug 17, 2007
In California crank calls and threats over the phone to cause injury are illegal. Penal Code Section 653mm, states that every person who, with intent to annoy, telephones or makes contact by means of an electronic communication device with another and addresses to or about the other person any obscene language or addresses to the other person any threat to inflict injury to the person or property of the person addressed or any member of his or her family, is guilty of a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor means jail time may not exceed one year. There is a defense to innocent calls or electronic contacts. If the telephone cal or electronic contact is made in good faith then the penalties do not apply.

Every person who makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device with intent to annoy another person at his or her residence, is, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or electronic contact, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

If:
(1) There is a temporary restraining order, an injunction, or any other court order, or any combination of these court orders, in effect prohibiting the behavior described. Meaning you have obtained a court order that prohibits the perpetrator from making crank calls to you; and/or

(2) The person makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device with the intent to annoy another person at his or her place of work, totaling more than 10 times in a 24-hour period, whether or not conversation ensues from making the telephone call or electronic contact, and the repeated telephone calls or electronic contacts are made to the workplace of an adult or fully emancipated minor who is a spouse,
former spouse, cohabitant, former cohabitant, or person with whom the person has a child or has had a dating or engagement relationship or is having a dating or engagement relationship.

And, the perpetrator makes repeated telephone calls or makes repeated contact by means of an electronic communication device with the intent to annoy another person at his or her place of work then the perpetrator is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment. Essentially California statutes prohibit undue annoyance at your place of work that may cause your employer to terminate you.

Any offense committed by use of a telephone may be deemed to have been committed where the telephone call or calls were made or received. Any offense committed by use of an electronic communication device or medium, including the Internet, may be deemed to have been committed when the electronic communication or communications were originally sent or first viewed by the recipient.

The Civil Code imposes tort liability for stalking when the plaintiff proves all of the following elements of the tort:

(1) The defendant engaged in a pattern of conduct the intent of which was to follow, alarm, or harass the plaintiff. In order to establish this element, the plaintiff shall be required to support his or her allegations with independent corroborating evidence.

(2) As a result of that pattern of conduct, the plaintiff reasonably feared for his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member. Immediate family means a spouse, parent, child, any person related by consanguinity or affinity within the second degree, or any person who regularly resides, or, within the six months preceding any portion of the pattern of conduct, regularly resided, in the plaintiff's household.

(3) One of the following:
(A) The defendant, as a part of the pattern of conduct specified in paragraph (1), made a credible threat with the intent to place the plaintiff in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of an immediate family member and, on at least one occasion, the plaintiff clearly and definitively demanded that the defendant cease and abate his or her pattern of conduct and the defendant persisted in his or her pattern of conduct.

(B) The defendant violated a restraining order, including, but not limited to, any order issued pursuant to Section 527.6 of the Code of Civil Procedure, prohibiting any act described in subdivision (a) of Civil Code section 1708.7.

"Pattern of conduct" means conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of purpose. Constitutionally protected activity is not included within the meaning of "pattern of conduct. "Credible threat" means a verbal or written threat, including that communicated by means of an electronic communication device, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent and apparent ability to carry out the threat so as to cause the person who is the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family.

"Electronic communication device" includes, but is not limited to, telephones, cellular telephones, computers, video recorders, fax machines, or pagers. "Electronic communication" has the same meaning as the term defined in Subsection 12 of Section 2510 of Title 18 of the United States Code.

"Harass" means a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person which seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and which serves no legitimate purpose. The course of conduct must be such as would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress, and must actually cause substantial emotional distress to the person.

A person who commits the tort of stalking upon another is liable to that person for damages, including, but not limited to, general damages, special damages, and punitive damages pursuant to Section 3294. General damages pertain to such things as pain, fear, suffering, anxiety, and emotional distress. Special damages mean economic damages such as medical expenses. Punitive damages are damages awarded to make sure the tortfeasor does not engage in that type of conduct again.
About the Author
Arnold Hernandez Representing Clients Throughout Southern California
Attorney Arnold Hernandez represents clients in car accidents, truck accidents, dog bites, overtime claims, and unfair home loans in the cities of San Marcos, Escondido, Vista, Oceanside, Cathedral City, Palm Springs, Indio, Riverside, and throughout Southern California.
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