Los Angeles Stalking Lawyer
Facing stalking charges in Los Angeles, California?
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,
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 Los Angeles
criminal defense lawyer from our office before you speak to anyone from
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;
- Sincerely threatened, either verbally or in writing; and
- Did so to place the victim in 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 alarms, shocks,
torments, or terrorizes a specific person. A court of conduct is a series
of two (or more) actions that demonstrate a continuity of purpose.
The term “credible threat” refers to an act that places the
target (victim) in reasonable fear for his or her well-being. Stalking
threats may be spoken, written, or communicated by electronic means (cell
phone, text, email, internet or chat room). In some cases, these threats
are simply an implied pattern of 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 spyware.
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 Penalties in California
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
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 Criminal 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
contact a Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer immediately.