Stalking is part of a group of California crimes that generally do not result in physical harm to the victim. It is concerned with repeated behavior that elicits fear in another person. Considered one of the toughest in the nation, California law relating to stalking is harsh. If you are accused of this crime, getting a San Diego stalking defense lawyer should be your top priority.
California Stalking Laws
The law prohibiting stalking sets out the elements of the crime as follows:
- With willful or malicious intent, you repeatedly followed or harassed the victim;
- A threat was made against the said victim; and
- The intention was to leave that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or that of their family.
Each aspect of the offense is specific and all the elements must be present for you to be found guilty of stalking. Additionally, charges may be brought against you in situations where the victim has a protective order prohibiting the behavior equivalent to stalking.
A charge of stalking is generally considered a wobbler. When this is the case, the prosecution possesses the discretion to proceed with the matter as a misdemeanor or as a felony. However, there are certain circumstances where stalking will be classified strictly as a felony:
- The stalking was in violation of a protective order.
- You have a previous stalking conviction.
It is important to note that the previous conviction need not be in relation to the same victim. A felony offense is no joke, and it is clear that the intention of the lawmakers was to send a loud message that it will not tolerate stalking. With this in mind, it will be critical to find legal representation as soon as you are arrested or an allegation is made.
What Are The Penalties For Stalking
When compared to other offenses, the penalties associated with stalking are considered severe. As a misdemeanor, the potential penalties include one-year jail time, $1000 fine, or probation. Additionally, sentencing will include the imposition of a restraining order and even confinement to a mental hospital. However, as a felony, the sentencing can include any of or a combination of the following:
- Maximum of 5 years of prison time;
- Mental hospital confinement;
- Restraining order; and/or
- Designation as a sex offender, which requires registration.
If your stalking leads to actual physical harm to the victim or a weapon was used, additional time upwards of 5 years will be added to your sentencing. Given the serious nature of the offense and possible prison time if found guilty, having a lawyer is essential.
How Can I Fight Stalking Charges?
It is sad to say, that in many cases, victims will exaggerate or make false statements out of malice. Even if this is your experience, you will still need to fight the charges if you are arrested and charged with stalking. If charges are not dismissed prior to trial, the following defenses are available to you:
- The allegations are not credible – This defense will include discrediting the witness and exposing the weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Additionally, where you can provide evidence to suggest that a reasonable person would not have feelings of fear under the circumstances of the alleged stalking, this can make way for a successful defense.
- Constitutional rights – The law against stalking does not apply to such actions that are protected under the constitution. This will include freedom of speech, protest, and assembly.
- Mistaken identity – In many instances of alleged stalking, the victim is not able to properly identify his or her stalker and may name the wrong person.
- Malicious intent – When it is your word against that of the alleged victim, there is a lot of room for false accusations. A qualified attorney can discredit and expose the true intent of witnesses to secure your innocence.
Retaining the services of a San Diego stalking defense lawyer is the starting point to preparing your defense and being in a position to fight the charges against you. In every criminal matter, you are considered innocent until proven guilty.
Contact Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyers
You can rely on the experience of the lawyers at McElfresh Law. For years we have served our clients by providing affordable and thorough legal representation in many stalking cases. As professional criminal defense advocates, we understand the criminal system and are no strangers to the courtroom.
While there is a lot of commentary around the harshness of the state’s stalking law, it remains the law of the land. If you are found guilty, the consequences are grave and it will be beneficial to have the team of McElfresh Law by your side.
Call us today at (858) 756-7107 and let us protect your rights as your San Diego stalking defense lawyer.