How to File Criminal Charges for Harassment

If you believe that you are being harassed, you should report it to the police and ask that criminal charges be instituted. If the harassment is extreme, and you believe that you are in danger of imminent harm, call 911 immediately. If you have been harassed, you can either go to the police station and make a report in person, or you can call the non-emergency number for your local police department to report the harassment. Every state defines harassment differently, so you will need to determine if the behavior constitutes harassment in your state. You can look up the definition on the American Bar Association website. (See the first link in the References section at the end of this article).

Prepare to contact the police by first gathering all the information you can about the harassment. It is a good idea to write out a list that includes the name and contact information (if you know it) of the person who is harassing you and the exact behavior that you believe constitutes harassment. You should also write out the exact date and place that the harassment occurred.

Contact your local police department to file criminal charges for harassment. If the person has threatened you in any way, and that threat puts you in immediate danger, call 911. Otherwise call the non-emergency phone number.

Bring the list that you prepared with you to the police station if you are making the report in person. If you are making the report over the phone, have that list handy so that you can provide detailed information about the harassment to the police officer taking the report.

Turn over any evidence you have of the harassment to the police. For example, if the person has been leaving harassing phone calls on your answering machine, bring the machine (or tape) with you. If there are any witnesses, bring a list of their names and contact information. If there are documents that show the harassment, make a copy before you give them to the police in case the police want to keep the originals.

Ask the police whether you should seek a restraining order legally barring the person from contacting you again if you are afraid the harassment will continue.

Tips & Warnings

-- You should write down as much information about the harassment as possible as soon as it happens so that you don't forget the details. It might help to use a calendar so that you remember the exact date(s) of the harassment.
-- For safety's sake, be sure to inform family members and some of your friends about the harassment. Some police departments allow you to file a report through their website. Even if you do this, you should follow up with an in-person visit or telephone call to the police department to ensure that they are following up on your report.
The police will investigate your charge of harassment, and if they arrest the person, they will be required to disclose your name as the victim of the harassment. If you believe that will put you in risk of harm, be sure to let the police officer know.