Illinois Harassment by Telephone

The Law – 720 ILCS 5/26.5-2

A person commits harassment by telephone when he or she uses telephone communication for any of the following purposes:

  1. Making any comment, request, suggestion or proposal which is obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy or indecent with an intent to offend; or
  2. Making a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, with intent to abuse, threaten or harass any person at the called number; or
  3. Making or causing the telephone of another repeatedly to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number; or
  4. Making repeated telephone calls, during which conversation ensues, solely to harass any person at the called number; or
  5. Making a telephone call or knowingly inducing a person to make a telephone call for the purpose of harassing another person who is under 13 years of age, regardless of whether the person under 13 years of age consents to the harassment, if the defendant is at least 16 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense; or
  6. Knowingly permitting any telephone under one's control to be used for any of the purposes mentioned herein.

What is “Harassment?”

"Harassment" means knowing conduct which is not necessary to accomplish a purpose that is reasonable under the circumstances that would cause a reasonable person emotional distress and does cause emotional distress to another.

Several actions can constitute Harassment by Telephone under Illinois law. While the obvious act of calling an individual to make lewd or offensive comments clearly constitutes harassment, the act of calling, without any conversation occurring, can also constitute harassment in Illinois.

Additionally, calling an individual and causing the telephone to ring, with the intent to harass the individual, also qualifies as Harassment by Telephone even if no person answers the ring.

In order for a person to be convicted of Harassment by Telephone, the state must successfully prove that the caller intended to harass the recipient. This often may be difficult to prove when the caller does not explicitly make a comment that can be perceived as intending to harass. For instance, a caller who makes repeated phone calls, without any conversation, can be convicted for Harassment by Telephone only if the caller intended to harass the recipient. Yet, without actual statements by the caller to the recipient or police indicating such intent, it would be challenging for a judge or jury to convict the individual.

While Harassment by Telephone may initially appear to be a minor crime, Illinois law mandates a minimum jail term for a second or subsequent violation of this or other harassment based communication offenses.

The Sentence

First Offense

Class B Misdemeanor

  • Up to 180 days in county jail
  • Fine of up to $1,500

Second or Subsequent violation

Class A Misdemeanor

  • Up to 364 days in county jail
  • Fine up to $2,500
  • Mandatory Minimum 14 days in county jail or 240 hours of community service

Class 4 Felony if:

  1. The person has 3 or more prior violations in the last 10 years of harassment by telephone, harassment through electronic communications, or any similar offense of any other state; or

  2. The person has previously violated the harassment by telephone provisions, or the harassment through electronic communications provisions, or committed any similar offense in any other state with the same victim or a member of the victim's family or household;

  3. At the time of the offense, the offender was under conditions of bail, probation, conditional discharge, mandatory supervised release or was the subject of an order of protection, in this or any other state, prohibiting contact with the victim or any member of the victim's family or household;

  4. In the course of the offense, the offender threatened to kill the victim or any member of the victim's family or household;

  5. The person has been convicted in the last 10 years of a forcible felony;

  6. The person violates paragraph (5) as listed in the law; or

  7. The person was at least 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense and the victim was under 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense.
  • 1 to 3 years in state prison
  • Fine of up to $25,000

Probation Possible? Yes.

Supervision Possible? Yes, on Misdemeanor offense.

Success Story: Being charged with this crime is more common than one might think, especially in the “cell phone age”. These days, it is very easy, using a cell phone, to keep dialing another person, over and over and over. Where we have seen this charge the most, as you might imagine, is in “break-up” situations – where one person has just ended a relationship with the other. There is a line between calling another to discuss a relationship, over and over; and harassing the person. There are numerous defenses to this charge, and we have been successful in asserting these defenses on behalf of our client.

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