Stalking is a crime in all 50 States, both at the State level and at the Federal level. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on what kind of conduct was undertaken. Stalking is a serious charge or accusation to be faced with, and you can be imprisoned for up to 5 years for even “minor” violations.
Defenses to stalking charges are available, however, and if you have been charged with this offense you must contact a lawyer immediately to help you to defend your case. A stalking charge can have a serious impact on your life, employment potential, and you may end up with long sentences of jail time.
What is Stalking?
Stalking at the Federal level is defined in 18 U.S. Code § 2261A. This section states that stalking is when someone:
- places another person in reasonable fear of death or serious bodily injury to him or herself, his or her immediate family member, or spouse or intimate partner
- causes, attempts to cause, or could reasonably be expected to cause substantial emotional distress to that person, or
- acts with the intent to kill, injure, harass, intimidate, or place under surveillance with intent to kill, injure, harass, or intimidate that person.
For this to be charged as a Federal crime, you must have travelled interstate, or in and out of a tribal reservation or land, or have engaged in “interstate commerce”. Interstate commerce includes activities such as using “the mail, any interactive computer service or electronic communication service or electronic communication system.” This means if you stalk someone using the telephone, internet, or postal service, this will be considered a Federal crime.
In simple terms, stalking includes behavior such as:
- Going to someone’s home, workplace, school, or other locations frequently
- Calling someone repeatedly
- Monitoring someone’s location or following their car
- Following a person on foot or other means
- Spying through photographing or taking videos of someone
- Googling or searching for private information about a person, or contacting friends and family members to find out information about the person
- Sending unwanted messages, letters, emails, or gifts
- Making threats to harm that person or their family
- Damaging their property such as their home, car, garden, or other property
These behaviors must be proven to have been done with the intent to harm the other person in some way, or to have caused emotional distress, a feeling of fear, or actual harm to result.
What To Do If You Have Been Accused of Stalking
If you have been accused of stalking or arrested on stalking charges, don’t talk to the police without a lawyer present. Do not present the police with any information or evidence that you believe could prove you have not been stalking someone, as it could be misconstrued or used against you later.
Politely assert your rights not to answer any questions, and wait for your lawyer to arrive. Do not attempt to contact the stalking victim or anyone related to them.
Possible Defenses to Stalking Charges
A number of different defenses can be raised if you have been charged with stalking. In any case, you must contact a lawyer to get help with these charges. For example, depending on the circumstances your lawyer may be able to argue that:
- The victim has mistaken you for someone else.
- You were not stalking the victim, but rather carrying out a legitimate activity that appeared to the victim to be stalking. For instance, if the victim lives near your workplace and you frequently walk the same route, the victim may feel or worry that they are being followed, when in fact you are only walking to work.
- The victim was lying about the stalking for some other reason.
- You had no intention of causing harm or distress to the victim.
- You were forced to or coerced to stalk the victim because of pressure from a third party or someone else.
Call Our Tampa, FL Defense Attorneys
If you have been accused of or charged with stalking, the attorneys of Stechschulte Nell can advise you. Call our top-rated Tampa, FL law firm at (813) 280-1244 to speak to an experienced defense attorney. We’re available 24/7 to take your call.