Los Angeles Stalking Defense Lawyer
Based upon news reports, it seems that stalking charges are relatively common. But anti-stalking laws did not exist in the United States until 1990. That year, the first such law was enacted, in California, effective at the beginning of 1991. Since that time, all 50 states have passed anti-stalking legislation of one sort or another. At CBS Law, we understand the California laws relating to stalking. If you are charged with stalking, we will work hard to make sure that your rights are protected and that you are provided with the best chance of a successful result in your case.
What is “Stalking” in California?
The California anti-stalking law, PC 646.9, says that anyone who willfully and maliciously harasses – or repeatedly, maliciously and willfully follows – another person, and who makes a credible threat intending to place that person in fear for their or their family’s safety, is guilty of the crime of stalking. While the wording appears relatively simple, proving a stalking charge requires evidence of numerous actions and states of mind.
If you are facing a stalking charge, here are some of the important things to know about the statute, what the terms mean, and what the state must prove:
- Harassment/Following: The prosecution must show that you engaged in a course of conduct that (a) was willful and malicious, (b) was directed at the other person, (c) seriously annoyed, alarmed, or terrorized that person, and (d) served no legitimate purpose.
- Threat: The threat must be “credible,” meaning that it must cause the other person to reasonably fear for their or their immediate family’s safety. The threat can be made orally, in writing, electronically, or by implication from a pattern of conduct or by statements and conduct in combination.
- Course of conduct: Two or more acts which demonstrate a continuous purpose.
The law requires that the alleged actions of the defendant be sufficient to satisfy the above definitions. If the evidence does not show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was harassment/following, a threat, and a course of conduct, the state has not carried its burden, and the case should be dismissed.
Classification and Penalties for Stalking
Stalking, without more, is a wobbler. It can be punished as a misdemeanor by a fine of up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment in the county jail for not more than a year, or as a felony leading to time in state prison. However, the presence of certain other factors can result in a change in the classification and potential sentence if you are convicted. Those factors include:
- Restraining orders: If it is alleged that you committed the crime of stalking at a time when a TRO (temporary restraining order) or other injunction is in effect which prohibits the conduct alleged in the stalking case against the same person, you will be charged with a felony, with a potential prison sentence of 2, 3, or 4 years.
- Domestic violence. A stalking conviction after a prior felony conviction for domestic violence battery can lead to a potential prison sentence of up to 5 years.
- Prior protective order violation. A stalking conviction after a prior felony conviction for violation of a domestic violence protective order can lead to up to 5 years in prison.
- Criminal threats. A stalking conviction after a prior felony conviction for making criminal threats (PC 422) can result in up to 5 years in prison.
- Prior stalking conviction. A conviction for stalking after a prior felony conviction for stalking is a felony, with a prison sentence of up to 5 years.
- Sex registration. Where felony stalking resulted from sexual compulsion or was committed for sexual gratification, the defendant, if convicted, may also be ordered to register as a sex offender.
Clearly, the many variations in the potential classification and sentencing for stalking can be confusing.
Stalking Defense Attorney in Los Angeles
The California stalking law contains numerous terms, many of which are not clearly defined in the statute. The lack of clarity in the statute can be exploited by a knowledgeable attorney for the benefit of a client. There are also issues that involve motivation, “reasonable” behavior and other matters that include large “gray areas.” Finally, a variety of factors concerning your prior criminal history can have a major impact on the classification and potential sentence if you are convicted.
These are all reasons why, if you are facing a stalking charge, you need an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer on your side. Call Chris Bou Saeed for a free consultation (213) 800-8005