So you’re getting phone calls that are bogus and offensive. Are they legally “Harassing Communications?”
Like many states, Alabama has a criminal statute that bans certain types of harassing communications. The statute says this:
Ala. Code Sec. 13A-11-8(b)
A person commits the crime of harassing communications if, with intent to harass or alarm another person, he or she does any of the following:
a. Communicates with a person, anonymously or otherwise, by telephone, telegraph, mail, or any other form of written or electronic communication, in a manner likely to harass or cause alarm.
b. Makes a telephone call, whether or not a conversation ensues, with no purpose of legitimate communication.
c. Telephones another person and addresses to or about such other person any lewd or obscene words or language.
Nothing in this section shall apply to legitimate business telephone communications.
(2) Harassing communications is a Class C misdemeanor.
A lot of people who are being hounded by debt collectors, creditors, or other folks who want money often ask me: “Isn’t this Harassing Communications?”
Well, unfortunately, a lot of the worst offenders are protected by the last part of the statute, which shields “legitimate business telephone communications.” Some small loan companies, payday lenders, and buy-here-pay-here car dealerships are often guilty of the worst sort of telephone harassment. And if they originated the loan or account, then they are not subject to the FDCPA. Since Alabama does not have its own debt collection statute, there often is no way to take action against original creditors to whom you actually owe money.
But what if they don’t have a legitimate business purpose? For instance, what if they are calling you and asking that you pay for someone else’s debt? Or if you have worked out a settlement and they decided to back out of it?
If that is the case, then you probably can do something about it.
But the harassing communications statute is a criminal statute, not a civil statute. Which means that if someone violates it, only the District Attorney or Alabama Attorney General can prosecute them for that crime. However, if they are committing a crime and their behavior is bad enough, then you may be able to personally them to court under a tort theory like outrage or intentional infliction of emotional distress.