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When do annoying phone calls become a crime?

On Behalf of | Oct 2, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

Knowing that people typically have their phones within reach, someone seeking their attention might call and text them repeatedly, especially if they did not answer the first time. However, pestering the same person this way can evolve into a crime.

There are many reasons why a person might want to bother someone with relentless phone calls or texts. A few motivations include attempting to win back an ex, collecting a loan, telling someone off or pulling a prank. For the person calling, these attempts to communicate might seem harmless, but the person on the other end can find it threatening.

When annoying phone calls cross the line

In California, it is a misdemeanor to intentionally annoy or harass someone through electronic communication devices. This includes using obscene language, issuing threats or persistently contacting someone. Obscene language could be anything offensive or inappropriate, such as swear words, descriptions of graphic violence and sexually explicit language.

Additionally, a person can commit the crime of annoying phone calls on nearly any electronic device, not just smartphones. Harassing someone through computers, fax machines, phones, or any other device that can send messages, images or sounds can count as a violation.

It is also illegal to urge someone to return a call and then curse or threaten them when they do. Making several calls to someone without leaving a message can also lead to criminal charges.

A conviction for annoying phone calls can result in fines of up to $1,000, up to six months in jail and other penalties.

Respecting boundaries

Before bothering someone with multiple phone calls or calling someone to swear at them, think about the consequences. If talking to a person is crucial, it might be better to ask when a convenient time is to reach them and where.

Technology has made communication easier, but it has made it more convenient for people to annoy and disturb one another. In today’s demanding world, respecting each other’s personal space and boundaries should not be overlooked.