Crucial facts you should know about stalking charges under California's penal code 646.9
Stalking is a serious criminal offense in California, like every other place in the United States. It's a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the severity of the case. In cases where the accused has a prior stalking conviction, it must be charged as a felony under California law.
When charged as a felony, a conviction carries a maximum sentence of five years in state prison, and, at times, a requirement to register as a sex offender. That usually happens when the court feels the accused stalked the victim for sexual gratification or because of a sexual compulsion.
If charged as a misdemeanor, a stalking conviction under California's penal code 646.9 can lead to a maximum sentence of a year in county jail, and/or up to a $1,000 fine. Other possible punishments include informal probation, counseling, and a restraining order that forbids any contact with the victim in the future. Fortunately for those who find themselves facing stalking charges, there are criminal defense attorneys who can help you get back on track with your life.
Under Penal Code 646.9, stalking is defined as: ‘A knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.'
Stalking can be anything from following – or running into – someone frequently, repeatedly driving by a person's place of employment or work, sending many unwanted gifts, and damaging property. It can also include gathering an unreasonable amount of information about a person in an attempt to find out more about the individual, trespassing on a person's property (this can bring in additional charges besides stalking), repeatedly making contact with a person's family members/friends, and harassing someone via phone.
If the person who made the accusation happens to be a former or current spouse/partner, someone you've shared a home with in the past, or the parent of your child, your case will be escalated to an “intimate partner stalking” case, making you subject to California's domestic violence laws, thus, tougher potential punishments.
For the offense to be prosecutable, the conduct of the person charged must be enough to cause a reasonable person distress.
Facing stalking charges under Penal code 646.9 can be a traumatic experience for anyone given the serious consequences a conviction might lead to, which is why it's always a good idea to seek the services of a competent criminal attorney if you find yourself facing charges in Visalia.
As with any other criminal offense, the burden of proof lies on the prosecution, and it's a high one.
In order to convict on stalking charges, the state must prove that:
- The accused willfully/maliciously harassed the complainant.
- Credible threats were made during said harassment.
- The accused person's threats gave the complainant a reasonable reason to be worried about his/her personal safety, and/or that of their loved ones.
- It was the accused person's intention to get the complainant worried about his/her personal safety.
Due to the serious consequences that come with a conviction on a stalking charge, the best option is typically to enlist the services of a lawyer. Given the burden of proof the state is required to meet, a competent attorney might be able to find holes in the prosecution's case, meaning the odds of you getting your case dismissed or a favorable plea deal is significantly improved.
For example, at times, conduct that might come off as stalking in some cases might actually be protected by the 2nd Amendment.
Not all accusations of stalking are legitimate either since people sometimes use the legal system as a way to get back at others who they feel have wronged them.
If that's the case in your situation, a good criminal attorney will help point that out in court by going through any documents and data that might prove your communications with the complainant doesn't qualify as stalking under California law.
So, if you find yourself facing stalking charges, there's no need to despair. Do some research, find an attorney who has lots of experience dealing with stalking charges, and ensure you're as prepared as possible when your day in court comes around
Contact the Visalia criminal defense lawyer at the firm if you have been charged or are being investigated in Fresno, Bakersfield, or Visalia for criminal offenses today.
Call at 559-302-9722 Visalia office or 661-466-2142 Bakersfield office