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Stalking is a crime in all 50 states, while interstate stalking is a federal offense. Stalking laws vary from state to state, but all states now have some type of law against stalking. In fact, stalking is considered such a serious offense by most states that their prosecutorial agencies usually assign special prosecutors to handle these types of cases. In California, especially in Los Angeles, Law Enforcement and the Los Angeles County District and City Attorney's offices recognize the danger and terror of the most serious stalking incidents and are responding by aggressively prosecuting stalkers.
Stalking laws cover a wide range of behavior and related charges. Stalking begins with repeated, bothersome and/or threatening behavior toward another individual by means of the Internet, personal contact, telephone, cell phone, email, facsimile or other methods of communication. When this unwanted behavior persists and causes the other person to feel frightened, intimidated, or harassed, it is considered stalking and is punishable by the state's stalking law.
Section 646.9 of the California Penal Code defines stalking as:
- Willfully and maliciously and repeatedly
- Following or harassing another person and
- Making a credible threat verbally, in writing or by electronic communication device
- With the intent to place that person in reasonable fear of death or bodily injury to that person or to his or her immediate family.
In California, stalking can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. Aggravating factors and prior criminal history are important considerations for prosecutors when they are determining whether to charge stalking as either a misdemeanor or felony. Prosecutors often include additional related charges, such as unlawful trespassing, computer use, vandalism, burglary, criminal threats, and obscene or threatening phone calls, when filing a stalking charge
First-time offenders will most likely be charged with misdemeanor stalking, if there are no aggravating factors. A misdemeanor stalking conviction can result in a sentence of up to one year in county jail, fines, counseling, informal probation and a restraining order. Repeat offenders, including those who stalk the same victim, would likely be charged with a felony even if there were no other aggravating factors. Felony stalking is punishable by up to five years in state prison. Stalking offenders with certain felony Domestic Violence or Criminal Threats convictions are subject to up to ten (10) years in state prison. A judge could also impose a ten (10) year restraining order as well as sex offender registration.
Most stalking cases come down to a "she said- he said" type of matter. However, with the advent of social media and cell phones (including text messaging), stalking cases have dramatically changed, allowing law enforcement agencies to track and document stalking behavior making it easier to secure a conviction. Speaking to an alleged victim in a stalking case in an attempt to get the victim to drop the case makes your situation worse. Contacting law enforcement or the prosecutor in the hopes of getting them to listen to your side of the story is absolutely the worst thing you could do.
If you are being investigated for stalking or charged with stalking, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners believe that taking a proactive approach can mean the difference between no charges being filed and facing a felony or misdemeanor charge. Stalking charges are serious and they require effective and aggressive representation. Call the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners for a no-cost confidential consultation.
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