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Harassment is an offense that can have serious legal consequences, and understanding the law is crucial for anyone in New York State. Harassment in the second degree, as defined under New York Penal Law § 240.26, is one such offense that merits attention. This blog post provides an insight into this specific violation, explaining the various aspects and highlighting essential legal points.

What Constitutes Harassment in the Second Degree?

A person can be found guilty of harassment in the second degree under the following circumstances:

  1. Physical Contact: If the person intentionally strikes, shoves, kicks or otherwise subjects another person to physical contact or threatens to do the same.
  2. Following in Public Places: If the person intentionally follows another in or around public places.
  3. Alarming Conduct: If the person engages in conduct or repeated acts that seriously annoy or alarm another person, and the acts serve no legitimate purpose.

Note that certain activities regulated by national labor relations acts are exempt from the subdivisions two and three of this section.

A Brief History

Originally enacted in 1965, harassment was a single-degree offense. Over the years, the law evolved with amendments, culminating in the separation into two degrees in 1992.

Key Legal Considerations

Here’s a look at some legal considerations that impact the application and interpretation of this statute:

  1. Culpable Mental State: The intent to harass, annoy or alarm an individual is essential. An information charging harassment in the second degree is defective if it doesn’t recite this specific intent.
  2. Subdivision (1) – Physical Contact: Even petty slaps, shoves, kicks, and threats can lead to harassment charges if done with intent. The evidence must show the intent rather than just a crude outburst.
  3. Subdivision (2) – Following: This includes stalking in public places and covers the seriousness of stalking, leading to separate statutes.
  4. Subdivision (3) – Alarming Conduct: This requires a course of conduct or repeated acts. A single incident will not suffice.
  5. Proviso: Activities regulated by certain labor laws are exempted, and certain defenses can be raised by the defense at trial.


Harassment in the second degree is a violation that can impact both individuals and the community at large. Understanding the intricacies of this law can help ensure that conduct aligns with legal standards, whether in personal interactions or public spaces.

If you believe you or someone you know may be involved in a situation relating to harassment in the second degree, seeking legal guidance is crucial. Feel free to reach out to our experienced criminal defense team to understand your rights and legal options.