Stalking – Charge Definition and Defenses
No one wants to be charged with stalking, both because of the legal penalties and the damage to one's reputation the charges can cause. If you've unfortunately been charged with this terrible offense, use this page to learn about the charges and what you can expect from your defense counsel.
What are Stalking Charges?
Stalking carries a particularly menacing connotation. As a result, the law outlines specific requirements for the prosecution to secure a conviction as defined in California Penal Code 646.9.
- The defendant both willfully and maliciously harassed another person OR
- Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed another person AND
- The defendant made a credible threat to that other person with the intent to make the other person fear for either their safety or that of their immediate family
Furthermore, the defendant may be charged with stalking if there is a restraining order in place between them and their accuser, even if they did not make any outward or credible threat.
In the eyes of the law, harassing is any type of conduct that can annoy, torment, alarm, or terrorize another person and that does not serve a legitimate purpose.
Penalties for Stalking Charges
Since stalking can significantly affect the quality of life of the victim and often leads to more serious crimes, associated penalties are often severe. Stalking is a so-called "wobbler" offense in California, so it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Misdemeanor stalking charges carry penalties including:
- Misdemeanor probation
- Up to a year in county jail
- A fine of up to $1000
But if charged as a felony, stalking charges can incur penalties like:
- Felony probation
- A fine of up to $1000
- Up to five years in state prison
California courts always charge stalking as a felony if the stalking violated a protective or restraining order issued by the court OR if the defendant was previously convicted of stalking. The victim in either case does not need to be the same between the two instances.
Defenses for Stalking Charges
Although being charged with stalking is awful, there are several defense strategies that a criminal defense attorney can employ to help you avoid a conviction.
No Credible Threat Was Present
If there wasn't a credible threat to the other person, then the defendant was not stalking. A credible threat must be proven by the prosecution, which often requires substantial eyewitness testimony or physical proof, not just one person's claim.
The Activity Was Constitutionally Protected
This defense protects individuals who were engaging in illegal activities from being accused of stalking without warrant. For instance, frequenting the same restaurant as another person does not count as stalking, regardless of whether or not two people get along.
No Intent to Cause Fear
If there wasn't any intent to cause fear or harass another person, the activity doesn't meet the minimum legal definition of stalking. This can protect individuals were unfairly profiled or those who may be biased against by police.
Contact a California Criminal Defense Attorney Today
In any stalking case, time is of the essence, and it's crucial to start forming your defense strategy ASAP. Contacting the Law Office of Peter James Chambers is the first step toward avoiding a conviction and getting back to your life. Contact us today for a free consultation.