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What Is Considered Stalking and When Does It Become a Crime?

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Alameda County criminal defense attorney stalking

You have likely heard the phrase “stalking” used when talking about looking at someone’s social media profile in detail. Perhaps you looked at all of their recent photos or glanced at who they follow. While this is jokingly labeled as social media stalking, these actions can quickly become a crime in California. The digital age has made it easier than ever before for stalking and harassment to occur, either physically or digitally. Stalking requires habitual patterns of following, pursuing, or harassing another person, causing the victim to fear physical harm or mental distress at their hands. Before any crimes can be convicted, this form of harassment must happen, closely together, on two or more occasions.

Behaviors Classified as Stalking

If you are facing stalking accusations, you may be wondering which actions of yours fall under this category. Some stalking behaviors are fairly evident in a domestic violence situation while others may be socially normalized with the high use of social media. The following are acts of stalking that may lead to criminal charges:

  • Physically or sexually assaulting the victim

  • Believably threatening the victim

  • Vandalizing the victim’s property

  • Violating official protective orders, also known as restraining orders

  • Using technology to collect photos of or information about the victim

  • Following the victim, by foot or car, and/or visiting him or her at work or school

  • Leaving phone messages or emails for the victim

  • Monitoring the victim’s Internet history and digital usage

  • Sending photos of the victim to him or her without his or her consent

When Does This Become a Criminal Offense?

If someone suspects that he or she may be a victim of stalking, he or she can easily file for an order of protection, although these do not warrant criminal charges against the named party. However, once a credible threat is made, with the intent to cause fear in the victim, the actions become the criminal offense known as stalking. This can lead to a jail sentence of up to one year and a $1,000 fine in California. If an order of protection is already in place and the stalker violates the order, the sentence will be increased to up to four years of imprisonment. The threat and intent that is required for this criminal offense does not need to be made face to face. These threats can be verbal, written, or sent through electronic means. In other words, if you send a threatening text message or comment on social media, you can face stalking charges. 

Contact a Palo Alto Stalking Defense Lawyer

Being charged with a crime has gotten significantly easier with the use of today’s technology. Messages sent over a text message or via social media platforms can easily be misconstrued, or even falsified if the accusing party is intent on charging you. The Fuller Law Firm has worked with its fair share of stalking cases and is well-versed in the defense strategies for anyone facing stalking or harassment charges, either physically or digitally. Whether your alleged threats were not legitimate or they were not even made by you, our legal team is prepared to take on your case. If you are facing stalking or harassment charges, contact our Santa Clara County criminal defense attorney at 408-234-7563 to schedule your initial consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.csun.edu/police/stalking-and-criminal-threats

https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displaySection.xhtml?sectionNum=646.9&lawCode=PEN 

 

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