Illinois law prohibits someone from using the phone to make obscene comments with the intent to offend another or to make a call, whether or not one speaks, with the intent of abusing, harassing or threatening someone.

A caller’s intent is a specific element of the offense. Therefore, the state must prove you had the required intent beyond a reasonable doubt. You act with intent when your conscious purpose is to engage in the conduct or to accomplish the purpose that is barred by law. For telephone harassment, you must intend to offend, abuse or threaten the other person.

Besides being intentional, your conduct must be voluntary. Your actions are not voluntary if they result from a reflex, are done while sleeping or under hypnosis, or are otherwise not your will.

In an interesting new Illinois case, the Illinois Appellate Court found that a defendant who suffered from Tourette’s syndrome did not act voluntarily in making phone calls to the victim. The defendant could not control a complex series of tics that resulted in the offensive phone calls. People v Nelson. While Defendant was not taking required medication, the State did not prove that his failure to take his medication was voluntary. Otherwise, defendant could have been held responsible for his acts.

If you have been charged with telephone harassment or another criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. Do not talk to the police or third parties about your case. Any attempt to explain your actions could end up constituting an admission of guilt.

An attorney can review your case to present the best possible defense. Can the state prove that you acted with the required intent? Perhaps you suffer from an involuntary condition like Tourette’s. Or perhaps you reasonably believed your conduct would not be offensive to the other party. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney who is respected in the courthouse may be able to negotiate a better plea agreement than you could on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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