The crime of stalking is the unwanted harassment or pursuit of another person that places a reasonable person in fear or causes them mental distress. Stalking behaviors include following a person, appearing at a person’s home or place of business, and making harassing phone calls. It may also involve leaving written messages or objects or vandalizing a person’s property.
By its nature, stalking is not a one-time event. Rather, it is a pattern of behavior meant to cause harm or distress. Stalking cases include repeated harassment or misconduct directed at a specific person over a period of time. Law enforcement will review a suspect’s series of actions to determine if stalking charges are appropriate. There must be a pattern of constant and consistent behavior.
Stalking may involve criminal offenses like making physical threats of harm. It may also involve a series of acts, some criminal and some noncriminal, that only demonstrate a criminal intent when viewed as a whole.
Every state has laws against stalking. Federal law also prohibits stalking that crosses state lines (interstate stalking). It also prohibits stalking via mail, an interactive computer service, or an electronic communication system used in interstate commerce (cyberstalking).
The federal Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) defines stalking as a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to: 1) Fear for their safety or the safety of others and 2) Suffer substantial emotional distress
In most states, stalking laws require the government to show that the defendant, with knowledge or purpose, engaged in such a course of conduct to place the victim in fear or to cause them mental distress.
Police may charge an individual with stalking regardless of any pre-existing relationship with the victim. The course of conduct can include several actions that occur relatively close in time. It may include following the victim, harassing the victim by phone, or showing up where the victim lives or works. It may also include unwanted text messages and threats posted on social media.
The basic offense of harassment is a misdemeanor but there are several aggravating factors that may enhance a harassment charge to a felony harassment or stalking charge. Such factors include: 1) Having a prior conviction for harassment; 2) Making a threat of physical harm to or against the victim; 3) Trespassing on the land or premises where the victim lives, works, or attends school; 4) The victim is a minor (under 18 years old); 5) The offender has a history of violence toward the victim or any other person; 6) The offender has a deadly weapon on or about their person; 7) The offender is subject to a protection order issued against the offender that is active at the time of the offense; 8) The offender caused serious physical harm to the victim’s residence or real property where the residence is located or any personal property on the premises and/or 9) There is evidence that a court had previously determined the offender to represent a substantial risk of harm to others
If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So, it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer. SQ Attorneys can be reached at (425) 359-3791 and/or (206) 441-0900.