Can You Go to Jail for Verbal Abuse?
Can You Go to Jail for Verbal Abuse?
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Can You Go to Jail for Verbal Abuse?
We’ve all faced unfair and hurtful comments from others. But when do those comments cross the line into abuse?
Unfortunately, some people face verbal abuse on a daily basis. Oftentimes, these people don’t even realize that what they’re facing is, actually, abuse.
Of course, you can’t protect yourself from a bad situation if you don’t fully understand your rights. That’s why we’ve created this helpful post that will answer every question, including, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?”
If you believe that you are the victim of verbal abuse, you may wonder what your options are. Keep reading to learn more about your rights and the next best steps. And if you have any specific questions for us, please fill out our convenient form to schedule a free case evaluation with the team at Morgan & Morgan.
What Is Assault?
Verbal abuse is defined as a type of emotional abuse. Any time a person uses their words to ridicule, dominate, manipulate, or degrade you, you are experiencing verbal abuse. And that behavior should not be tolerated.
However, verbal abuse is not always illegal. Can you go to jail for verbal abuse? There may not be legal recourse for verbal abuse unless it qualifies as assault. So let’s dive into the legal definition of assault as we move forward.
Assault is an act that can lead to both a criminal and a civil case. At its roots, assault is any intentional act that puts another person in immediate danger or at least puts them at a reasonable apprehension of danger. In other words, if the victim is aware that they may be subjected to harm because of the assaulter, the situation qualifies as assault.
Assault and battery are separate terms that are often confused with one another. The difference is that assault doesn’t always cause physical harm but may leave the victim in fear of physical harm. Essentially, the victim must believe that he or she is in danger of suffering an injury at the hands of the assaulter.
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Can Verbal Abuse Be Considered Assault?
The laws regarding assault do vary from state to state. But generally speaking, verbal abuse can be considered assault under certain conditions. A verbal threat may appear as though it qualifies as an assault on its own. But remember, the listener must have reason to believe the person will actually carry through on their threat.
In other words, a person may threaten to harm you, and this might not qualify as assault. But if that same person is holding a weapon and threatening to harm you, it’s much more likely that the courts will consider the event assault.
If you have reason to believe that threats made against you or your family are serious, you should call the police immediately. Then, call an attorney. You may be able to press charges against your abuser.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Assault?
We mentioned earlier that assault can be tried both criminally and civilly. This means that the answer to the question, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?” is yes — if the abuse qualifies as assault.
However, it’s much more likely that a person found guilty of verbal assault will receive criminal fines and probation instead. With that being said, anyone facing misdemeanor assault charges could receive up to one year in jail. And anyone facing felony assault charges could receive a prison sentence of one year or longer.
In other words, assault is a crime with serious legal consequences. If you find yourself facing verbal assault charges, it’s wise to call an attorney immediately.
If, on the other hand, you have been the victim of verbal assault, you might likewise want to call an attorney. That way, you can explore your options for filing a civil suit for compensation.
What Is Harassment?
Sometimes, verbal abuse doesn’t consist of literal threats to yourself or your family. And yet, the abuse may still cause you to feel unsettled, unwelcomed, and unprotected. That’s why there are harassment laws in place to protect you from conduct that intimidates, alarms, annoys, or threatens you.
Harassment laws vary from state to state, but you should know that you are protected against language that makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Here are a few examples of verbal harassment:
- You are subjected to comments or inquiries that are sexual or graphic
- You are subjected to speech that is loud, boisterous, or profanity-laden
- You receive frequent, unwanted phone calls
- You are subjected to racist, sexist, or ageist jokes
- You are subjected to derogatory comments or slurs about your race, sex, or age
Verbal harassment often occurs in the workplace. Whether it’s excessive criticizing or unwanted sexual advances, these conditions can make you feel unsafe.
Can Verbal Abuse Be Considered Harassment?
Yes, verbal abuse can be considered harassment. And you may be able to pursue legal action, depending on the severity of the situation. So can you go to jail for verbal abuse? Again, yes, if the abuse qualifies as harassment.
Whether you are being harassed by a coworker, a supervisor, an ex-spouse, or a stranger, it’s worth looking into your legal options. Call an attorney immediately for help resolving the situation.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Harassment?
All states recognize harassment in both misdemeanor and felony forms. If this is a first-time offense, the abuser will likely face misdemeanor charges of harassment. But if this has happened before or if the harassment was accompanied by stalking, the abuser will likely face felony charges instead.
Of course, in either scenario, the abuser can face jail time, criminal fees, and probation. It’s also possible that the court will order mandated psychological counseling. A convicted harasser will likely be ordered to have no contact with the victim.
If you have asked, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?” it seems that this is another reason to answer yes. Verbal abuse can constitute harassment, and extreme cases of harassment can result in a jail sentence.
How to Recognize Verbal Abuse When It Happens
Verbal abusers are often manipulative and discreet. You may not even realize that you are experiencing abuse in the moment. To help you protect yourself and your rights, we’ve outlined a few warning signs to watch for that signal you are experiencing verbal abuse:
1. You Feel Isolated
If your abuser speaks in a way that makes you feel withdrawn or isolated from your loved ones, you may be experiencing verbal abuse. This is how an abuser exerts control.
2. You Feel Humiliated
If the person speaks in a way that leaves you feeling embarrassed, it could qualify as abuse. This person may be trying to maintain power and control by criticizing, name-calling, or belittling you.
3. You Feel Threatened
Any threats or intimidating words made against you or your family should not be tolerated. Again, the abuser may be attempting to exert control over you by putting you in fear of harm.
4. You Feel Gaslit
Sometimes, abusers will attempt to gaslight their victims by claiming they said or did something they did not. If the person pretends to not understand you, denies that an event took place, or questions your memory of an event, you could be experiencing verbal abuse.
What Should You Do if You Are the Victim of Verbal Abuse?
Sometimes, the answer to the question, “Can you go to jail for verbal abuse?” is no. After all, verbal abuse is not always a crime.
But it is not a condition that you should ever accept for yourself or your loved ones. If you are facing verbal abuse, we recommend that you remove yourself from the situation as soon as possible. Once you are safely away from your abuser, you can begin to consider your legal options.
Here are a few of the steps we recommend you take after experiencing verbal abuse:
Gather Statements From Witnesses
If there have been any witnesses to the abuse, it helps to have signed statements from these individuals. Have each witness write clearly about what they saw happen and include any contact information so your legal team can get back in touch with the person.
File a Report
If the abuse is taking place at work, file a report with the human resources department. For events that happen at home, you can file a report with the police. Doing so will help to back up your claims later on.
Consider a Restraining Order
If the abuse continues to occur, consider filing a restraining order. This will prevent the abuser from contacting you further. And if the case is ever taken to court, this will serve as further proof of the abuse.
If you need help in any of these steps, you should call an attorney. It’s important that you go about the process the right way. An attorney will help to ensure you follow best practices.
When Can I Sue for Verbal Assault?
If the abuse has resulted in quantifiable damages, you may be able to pursue a lawsuit. Essentially, you must be able to prove that the abuse happened and that it caused you emotional, physical, or psychological distress.
When Should I Call an Attorney About Verbal Abuse?
Verbal abuse can have devastating effects on your home, work, and personal lives. It can even cause you to experience adverse health effects. Because this is such an important issue, it’s wise to contact an attorney when you're considering your options.
It’s not always easy to prove that abuse has happened and protect yourself against it. A lawyer can help.
Learn More About Your Rights
We know that abuse can be a highly personal and sensitive topic. We would love the chance to speak with you directly about the situation and your legal options. To learn more about how an attorney from Morgan & Morgan can help, schedule a free case evaluation by filling out our simple contact form.