Exercise 1 - Harassment
The defendant is charged with harassment under §30-3A-2 based on his 4 a.m. phone call to his neighbor. During the call, the defendant identified himself and proceeded to yell for approximately 5 minutes about the neighbor's practice of storing garbage cans on the side of their shared driveway. The garbage cans made it extremely hard for the defendant to safely back-up his vehicle when he left for work at 4 a.m. The neighbor advised police that the defendant had discussed this issue with her on four prior occasions, but always at a "respectable hour and in a neighborly way." The criminal complaint that upon the arrival of law enforcement, the neighbor appeared to be "severely upset" and was crying both from being woken up and the defendant's yelling. The defendant argues a pretrial motion to dismiss the harassment charge based on insufficient evidence to support a conviction.
How should the judge rule on the motion to dismiss?
- A. Deny the motion and proceed to trial since a pattern of conduct was shown by the defendant raising the garbage can issue on five occasions.
- Answer A is incorrect. Although the garbage can issue was raised five times by the defendant, four of the five times were done at reasonable times of the day and in a "neighborly way." It was only the one late night call that appeared to cause distress to the neighbor. Therefore, there is no knowingly pursued "pattern of conduct … intended to annoy, seriously alarm or terrorize" the neighbor, as required by the harassment statute, §30-3A-2. Please select another answer.
- B. Grant the motion to dismiss since the defendant's conduct does not constitute harassment.
- Answer B is correct! Section 30-3A-2 states that harassment consists of a knowingly pursued "pattern of conduct … intended to annoy, seriously alarm or terrorize." Four of the five times the defendant raised the garbage can issue were done at reasonable times of the day and in a "neighborly way." One late night call with yelling does not constitute a pattern, regardless of whether it caused the neighbor to suffer substantial emotional distress.
- C. Deny the motion because the neighbor suffered substantial emotional distress from the late night call
- Answer C is incorrect. Assuming that the neighbor in fact suffered substantial emotional distress from the late night call, §30-3A-2 requires that such a reaction result from a knowingly pursued "pattern of conduct," not a single, emotion-filled incident, despite the fact it was made in the middle of the night. Please select another answer.