Stalking charges have the potential to upend your life. If you are convicted of stalking, your life will never be the same. California has comparably severe stalking laws. Thankfully, help is available. Our legal team is here to clear your name and return your life to normal. If you are accused of stalking or charged with stalking, this is the time to develop an understanding of stalking charges and hire a stalking defense attorney. In the best possible scenario, you will have an attorney on your side before the charges are filed. Let's take a look at the details of stalking charges.
The Basics of Stalking
Stalking is best defined as the repeated harassing, threatening or following of another individual to the point that the stalked individual fears for his safety. Furthermore, if the stalking victim fears for the well-being of his or her family, he or she is being stalked. The operative word in the definition of stalking is repeated. A single event in which someone follows another person or harasses them does not qualify as stalking as it is not repeated behavior. Let's take a look at some examples of stalking,
There is a common misconception stalking is limited to trailing someone as they go from one place to another. Though physically following someone qualifies as stalking, it is just one of many different examples. Those who make repeated harassing phone calls can be found guilty of stalking. Even coordinating instances in which an individual intentionally crosses paths with the targeted person qualifies as stalking. Driving by the target's workplace/home, sending multiple emails, texts, letters or even undesired gifts also qualify as examples of stalking.
Successful Stalking Defense Strategies
Our legal team has numerous stalking defense strategies at our disposal. The unique facts of your case dictate which strategy is optimal. A stalking defense attorney will evaluate the details of your situation and explain exactly why the selected defense strategy is optimal. In many cases, the allegations are false. Consider a situation in which two romantic flames break up and one party accuses the other of stalking in an attempt to obtain vengeance for ending the relationship. Such false stalking accusations are more common than most assume.
Golden State residents are sometimes tempted to file stalking charges simply because the state has harsh penalties for stalkers. You might have been accused of stalking by someone who is angry at you or has a grudge. You need a solid legal team on your side to review all evidence including everything from handwriting to audio, video, DNA, etc. to make the case to prove you are not guilty of stalking.
The First Amendment Defense
It is interesting to note the Golden State's stalking laws are not applicable to activities related to the First Amendment, commonly referred to as the right to freedom of speech. There is a chance our legal team will be able to develop a credible argument that supposed threats made while participating in a protest or assembly were a component of your basic right to free speech. The bottom line is if you are participating in an activity protected by the Constitution, California's stalking laws are not applicable.
The Lack of a Credible Threat Defense
In some cases, there is no credible threat. If you make a threat against an individual, it does not mean it is an act of stalking. Stalking mandates a credible threat. Consider a situation in which you make an outrageous threat in the heat of the moment. There is no way you can feasibly act on such a threat. Nor would the threat put a reasonable individual in fear. Therefore, the threat is not considered credible. If there is no credible threat, you cannot be found guilty of stalking. There is a chance none of the legal defenses detailed above will apply to your unique case. However, it still makes sense to meet with the stalking legal experts as we will fiercely advocate on your behalf to obtain a plea deal that does not significantly disrupt your life.
The Mistaken Identity Defense
There are some cases in which stalking charges are filed when the alleged stalker has been mistaken for another person. Those who have been victimized are often quick to blame an innocent person in an attempt to feel better. Our legal team is here to help in cases of mistaken identity. As long as you were not in the vicinity of the stalked party, we will likely be able to successfully argue you were physically far away and could not have stalked the accuser.
Additional Stalking Defenses
If your conduct does not meet the definition of harassment as detailed above, the charges might be tossed. The challenge is in proving the conduct did not elevate to qualify as harassment based on the law's nuanced wording. Furthermore, it might be possible to prove your conduct was not malicious or willful. There are numerous other stalking defense strategies that have proven successful in the past. However, if you do not give our legal team the opportunity to analyze your case in-depth, you will not know if any of the stalking defense strategies noted above or those not noted in this post are applicable to your unique situation.
Stalking in the State of California
As noted above, the state of California takes stalking extremely seriously. Part of the reason why the Golden State takes stalking more seriously than other states is the high prevalence of such behavior in this part of the country. Countless celebrities located throughout California have been stalked. The state prosecutes stalking under section 646.9 of the Penal Code. The state of California considers the malicious, willful and repeated undesired contact with another person to be harassment. The threat must be construed as sincere and made in the form of the written or spoken word.
Even sending texts, emails and interacting with others in online chat rooms can qualify as a stalking threat. However, if the accused party's actions did not put the victim in fear for his or her safety or life or the safety of their family, stalking has not occurred. The alleged stalker must have performed two or more actions that indicate continuity.
The term “credible threat” is especially important in the context of stalking. If there is not a credible threat, there is no stalking. A credible threat is one that makes the target worried about his or her well-being. However, this fear must be reasonable in for the threat to be considered credible.
The Emergence of Cyber Stalking
It was not long ago when stalking was limited to physical interactions, phone calls and regular snail mail. Nowadays, it is possible to stalk someone online. Internet stalking, also known as cyber stalking, is the use of the web or another electronic means to stalk another person. Cyber stalkers use all different forms of electronic communication to perform stalking. Everything from social media to instant messages, email, text messages, posts on internet discussion boards and the use of spyware can be used to stalk.
The transmission of obscene or threatening messages, posting incorrect information online, ordering goods/service in the target's name and posting information with the intention of spurring criminal activity qualify as cyber stalking. Even bullying an individual on social media, an online message board, chat room or another online platform qualifies as cyber stalking. As long as the stalking is performed on an electronic medium, it qualifies as cyber stalking. One of the most notable instances of stalking in California took place two decades ago when an individual in Hollywood was accused of using the web to coordinate for a target to be sexually assaulted. This was accomplished by posting sexually suggestive ads on the web that displayed the targeted woman's address.
California Stalking Penalties
If you are accused of stalking, the first thing you should do is lean on an attorney for assistance. Stalking can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, based on the crime's circumstances. Even the defendant's criminal history can play a part in the penalty. Misdemeanor penalties have the potential to result in upwards of a full year in county jail. Misdemeanor penalties can also include a $1,000 fine. Felony penalties have the potential to put a defendant in state prison for upwards of half a decade. There is a maximum of a $1,000 fine for misdemeanor penalties. However, the penalties do not end there.
Those found guilty of stalking can also be slapped with a restraining order that bars contact with the supposed victim. Though you might not care for the individual pressing the stalking charges, you might desire or need to interact with him or her for various reasons. As an example, if you have one or several children with the party that is allegedly being stalked, you will desire to be in their company. However, if you are found guilty of stalking, you will likely be slapped with a restraining order that bars contact with the supposed victim. In fact, the restraining order will spell out exactly how close you can physically be to the alleged victim. If you have children or other mutual relatives with the party in question, you will not be able to see them if you have a restraining order.
Additional potential stalking penalties include forced commitment to a hospital for the mentally ill and sex registration. The details of each unique case determine if the defendant is to register as a sex offender in accordance with Section 290 PC of the state's Penal Code. The judge will ultimately determine if sex offender registration is necessary. If the judge determines the stalking activity should spur sex offender registration and the guilty party fails to register as such, he or she will likely be charged with a felony offense.
A guilty party that violates an existing restraining order will face upwards of four years in prison. Those who have a previous felony stalking conviction will face up to five years in prison. An individual with a prior conviction for criminal threats or domestic violence can be sent to prison for two to five years. In certain cases, the length of imprisonment can be extended if specific circumstances apply. As an example, stalking while armed with a weapon can add between one and three years to a prison sentence. If bodily harm resulted, the prison sentence can be extended between three and five years.
It is important to note there are some situations in which stalking is automatically considered a felony offense. If the supposed stalker is accused of stalking a target while violating a protective order or if the defendant was accused of stalking in the past, he or she will be charged with a felony. It does not matter if the prior case is against a completely different person; the stalking offense will still be a felony as opposed to the comparably less severe misdemeanor. The logic in elevating the charge to a felony for such defendants is to discourage those who have a history of criminal behavior from repeating deviant activities.
Stalking as a Federal Crime
There is the potential for stalking to be prosecuted as a federal crime. There is a federal law against stalking on the books known as Interstate Stalking. This law was passed in 1996 as a component of the Violence Against Women Act. This act makes it a federal felony to harass or stalk someone from one state to the next if such actions induce fear, injury or death to the target or the target's family. Furthermore, it is a federal felony to partake in stalking or harassment on United States territorial lands, Native American reservations or military property.
Consider the Ramifications of Being Found Guilty of Stalking
A stalking conviction will be a black mark on your record for the rest of your life. It will be difficult to obtain gainful employment, find a place to live, obtain government security clearance and generally live a normal life if you have a felony stemming from a stalking conviction. It might prove difficult to do something as simple as securing a studio apartment lease if you have a felony on your permanent record. So do not take accusations of stalking or formal stalking charges lightly. If you do not hire an attorney, there is a good chance you will be found guilty and face the challenges detailed above.
Though hiring an attorney takes some money, the life costs resulting from felonious stalking are much more severe. As noted above, those found guilty of stalking face potential penalties ranging from a significant fine to jail time and a marred permanent record. The end result of these punishments is missed life opportunities and misery. In fact, you might even end up on a list of registered sex offenders if found guilty of stalking. This would be quite the egregious injustice if you are completely innocent. Registered sex offenders have strict limitations in terms of where they can live and work. The sad truth is all it takes is one disgruntled person to frame you for stalking and you can end up with the problems detailed above and then some. You can avoid this nightmare by reaching our to our legal team for a thorough evaluation of your case. We will formulate the best possible legal defense to beat the charges and get your life back on track.
Why You Need a Stalking Defense Attorney on Your Side
If you are accused of stalking or charged with stalking, the worst thing you can do is nothing. You need a savvy and experienced defense stalking attorney in your corner to emerge with any semblance of justice. Do not wallow in self-pity, confront the accuser or argue with the police. Your first course of action should be consulting with our defense stalking attorney. We will evaluate your case, explain the nuances of stalking laws in California and zealously advocate on your behalf to get your life back on track. The last thing you need is jail time, a fine and unnecessary drama. Our legal teal is here to focus on beating your stalking charge and finally returning your life to normal. This is the professional, in-depth assistance you need during this difficult period of your life.
Finding a Stalking Defense Attorney Near Me
Have you been charged with stalking or domestic violence? Our legal team is here to help you avoid arrest, penalties, prosecution and the rest of the negative fallout of a stalking charge. Reach out to our Los Angeles Criminal Lawyer today at 818-484-1100 to schedule an appointment.