Los Angeles Stalking Lawyer
Facing stalking charges in Los Angeles, CA?
California has one of the most comprehensive stalking laws in the nation. In California, especially Los Angeles, Law Enforcement and Prosecutors are cracking down on stalkers and aggressively investigating and prosecuting stalking crimes due to their possible outcomes. Victims of stalking are also exposed to other related crimes such as assault, battery, domestic violence, terrorist threats, trespass, rape, and murder.
The criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners aggressively represent defendants who have been charged with stalking. If you are being investigated or charged with stalking speak to an experienced criminal defense lawyer from our office before you speak to anyone from law enforcement.
Stalking Law in California
In California, stalking is prosecuted under Penal Code Section 646.9. In order to obtain a conviction, the following elements must be proven:
- A person willfully, maliciously and repeatedly followed or harassed another;
- Made a credible threat either verbally or in writing; and
- Did so with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or for the safety of their immediate family.
Under the law, harassment is defined as a knowing and willful course of conduct, serving no legitimate purpose, that is directed at a specific person and that seriously annoys, alarms, torments, or terrorizes a person. A court of conduct is a series of two or more acts that demonstrate a continuity of purpose.
A "credible threat" is one that places the target (victim) of the threat in a reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of their family. This threat can be made orally, in writing, by electronic means (cell phone, text, email, internet or chat room) or may be implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct.
Behaviors commonly associated with stalking include:
- Following someone or orchestrating 'coincidental' run-ins
- Numerous unwanted phone calls, letters, texts or emails
- Gathering an inordinate amount of information about a person
- Repeatedly sending unwanted gifts
Cyber stalking or Internet stalking is the act of stalking using the internet or any electronic means. Cyber stalking is prosecuted under California Penal Code Section 646.9. A cyber stalker uses various modes of electronic communication to track, annoy, harass, locate or contact a person. Electronic communication can include, but is not limited to: the internet, email, instant messaging, text messaging, posts to discussion boards or chat rooms, blogs, online forums or the use of malware and spywear.
Cyber stalking can take a variety of forms, including:
- Sending threatening and/or obscene emails
- Posting false information on websites, message boards or chat rooms
- Posting information with the intention of inciting criminal activity
- Ordering goods or services in another's name
Stalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the circumstances of the crime and the defendant's prior criminal history. Misdemeanor penalties can include up to a year in county jail and/or a $1,000 fine while felony penalties can include up to five years in state prison and a maximum $1,000 fine. Additional penalties can also include: a restraining order prohibiting contact with the victim, sex registration and a possible commitment to a state-run hospital for mental illness.
If the stalking violated a valid restraining order, a defendant may face up to four years in prison. Offenders with a prior felony stalking conviction can face up to two, three or five years in prison. Those with prior convictions for domestic violence or criminal threats can face up to one year in county jail or two, three or five years in prison.
Stalking can also be prosecuted as a federal crime. The federal anti-stalking law called "Interstate Stalking," was adopted in 1996 as part of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). VAWA makes it a federal felony to stalk or harass an individual from one state to another if the stalking or harassment causes fear or serious injury or death to the victim or the victim's immediate family. It is also a federal felony to engage in stalking or harassment on military or U.S. territorial lands, including Indian reservations.
Federal stalking charges are rare in Los Angeles. Stalking is generally prosecuted under the state law rather than the federal law. The most recent and well known case that was prosecuted under the federal statute in Los Angeles involved ESPN reported Erin Andrews and her alleged stalker Michael David Barrett. Barrett was charged under the federal stalking law for videotaping Andrews through various hotel peepholes across the county. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000. Barrett pled guilty in 2009 and received 30 months in federal prison.
Los Angeles Stalking Defense Attorneys
If you are the victim of a stalker, contact your local law enforcement agency and file a police report. It is likely that criminal charges would be filed if there is enough evidence. Alternatively, you may wish to file a restraining order to prevent further stalking. We can help you with a restraining order should you decide to go that route.
If you are being investigated or have been charged with stalking in Los Angeles, please call the criminal defense lawyers at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners to discuss your legal options. Your chances of prevailing against a stalking charge are greatly increased by skilled criminal defense attorneys who can mount a strong defense to the charges.
For a criminal defense team you can rely on to deliver effective and aggressive representation, contact a Los Angeles stalking lawyer immediately.