Stalking can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime.
In recent years, the term “stalking” has become more commonplace. It is more readily understood as a crime, which is a good thing for the thousands of victims across California. Yet at the same time, it is often overused to describe behaviors that a person may simply not like. So what exactly is stalking — and what happens if you are accused of this crime?
Under California law, a person can be charged with stalking if he or she “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family.” In other words, stalking involves:
- Willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following another person; OR
- Willfully and maliciously harassing another person; AND
- Making a credible threat,
- With the intent of placing that person in reasonable fear for their safety; OR
- The safety of their immediate family.
There are two parts of stalking — following or harassing AND making a credible threat with the intent of putting the other person in fear for their safety. According to a criminal defense lawyer Los Angeles County, CA, if all elements of the crime of stalking are not met, then a crime has not been committed.
If you are accused of stalking, then you will likely be arrested and charged with a crime. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case and your criminal history. As a misdemeanor, stalking is punishable by probation, up to 1 year in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. As a felony, stalking is punishable by probation, up to 5 years in state prison, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. If the stalking was in violation of a court-issued protective order, or if you have a previous stalking conviction, then the offense will always be charged as a felony. In addition to criminal penalties, a victim of stalking may pursue civil damages for losses that they suffered due to the stalking.
There are a number of legal defenses to an allegation of stalking. A skilled criminal defense lawyer Los Angeles County, CA can argue that there was no credible threat that would have placed the alleged victim in reasonable fear for their safety. If the person made a joke, or threatened something that was not possible, like shooting someone with a laser that will make them get bigger, then the threat was not credible. Similarly, if there was no intent to cause fear with a “threat,” then that is a defense to a charge of stalking.
If you have been charged with stalking, you will need a top-notch criminal defense attorney to represent you. The Chambers Law Firm can help. Contact us today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free initial consultation.