Stalking

Repeatedly and intentionally following or harassing another person on purpose in a way that causes fear to that person may be considered criminal "stalking" under California Penal Code section 646.9. "Repeatedly" might sound as if the stalking behavior must occur many times, but actually the law in California defines "repeatedly" in the context of stalking as "on more than one occasion." Stalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in California. An Orange County stalking defense lawyer is critical to fighting this type of charge.

Stalking is most commonly committed during a bitter divorce or child custody battle or as a result of a misguided romantic attachment, but it is not unusual for stalking to occur in other settings. A modern version of stalking, which is in the news a lot these days, is "Internet stalking." Internet stalking, where repeated contact is made with someone over the Internet, on Facebook for example, causing that person reasonable fear, is a crime under the California Penal code (section 646.9(g)) and carries the same punishment as physically stalking someone. Stalking can also take the form of other written communications, for example, sending two or more letters to someone in which the content of those letters causes the person to be in reasonable fear.

By the way, it does not matter whether the stalker actually intends to carry out his or her words or even whether he or she utters or writes any words at all; it is enough that the person stalked is reasonably in fear. Examples of this might be when someone repeatedly follows another person on purpose, without ever saying a word, or leaves items, intended to be interpreted as messages, on someone's doorstep.

Stalking does not require that the immediate target of the stalker be in fear for his or her personal safety; it is also stalking when reasonable fear is created regarding the target's family. An example of this would be telephoning someone on more than one occasion and telling that person that his or her child is going to be harmed. A stalking defense attorney in Orange County can help you determine whether the law applies to your situation.

Almost any conduct can be considered stalking if it is done purposely and puts the person stalked in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her immediate family. A stalker might consider his or her behavior harmless but the prosecution and a jury might think otherwise. Consider the man who keeps calling his former girlfriend and telling her to come back to him because her life is not worth living without him. This type of behavior could be charged as stalking if these calls cause the former girlfriend to be in reasonable fear for her safety.

It is not uncommon for someone to allege they are being stalked as a scheme to hurt the person against whom the allegation is made. Even if the charge is untrue and alleged for ulterior motives, the charge must be defended; it is a criminal charge with potentially serious repercussions. To prove stalking, the prosecutor must establish very specific facts in evidence. A good criminal defense attorney understands what the prosecution must prove in order to sustain the charge and knows how to defeat or mitigate the prosecution's case.

I am an experienced Orange County stalking defense attorney with proven results and I promise to vigorously defend your rights under the law. I have successfully defended hundreds of clients, including those charged with stalking and related crimes (for example, violation of restraining orders, domestic violence, or criminal threats). Contact me at any time to set up a confidential consultation without charge. I will work with you and your family to provide a fee structure that best suits your circumstances.

Sentencing

Stalking is a "wobbler" meaning that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances of the crime and the criminal background of the alleged stalker. If charged and sentenced as a misdemeanor, the punishment is a maximum one year in county jail and/or probation, fines, and potential restitution. A conviction will also likely result in a restraining order prohibiting the stalker from any contact with his or her victim. If charged as a felony, the punishment is imprisonment for 16 months, two, or three years.

If someone is charged with stalking a person who already has any type of restraining order or injunction against the alleged stalker, the stalking will be charged as a felony with a potential penalty of imprisonment for two, three or four years. The crime of stalking will also be charged as a felony if the stalker already has a prior stalking conviction or if the stalker has been convicted of certain prior crimes of domestic violence or criminal threats. This felony charge carries a potential sentence of two, three, or five years imprisonment. A stalking defense lawyer in Orange County can help you try to avoid or mitigate the potential consequences.