California has some of the harshest laws on stalking in the country. Stalking an intimate partner is under the state's domestic violence laws, and if you are found guilty, the court could subject you to harsh penalties, including jail time and heavy fines.
Unfortunately, an intimate partner can falsely accuse you of stalking. If the law has charged you with stalking but you believe the accusations are false, contact a criminal defense lawyer.
Read on to learn more about stalking in California, penalties, and possible defenses.
In California, the law defines stalking as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following or harassing another person. Stalking further constitutes threatening another person and causing that person to fear for their and their family's safety.
The prosecutor must demonstrate that your actions were deliberately malicious and that you knowingly engaged in these actions, even if you did not realize that certain actions were illegal.
Further, the prosecutor must show that the threats you made were credible and that you actually had the ability to act on these threats. A threat can be verbal or written and conveyed through any media including electronic devices such as smartphones.
If you are accused of stalking, the prosecutor can choose to present your case as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on your criminal history and the nature of your actions.
The court may convict you for misdemeanor stalking if this is your first stalking offense or you do not have a previous criminal record.
Punishment for misdemeanor stalking could include a maximum of one year in jail, payment of a fine, counseling in a state hospital, informal probation, and a restraining order.
The law will charge you with a felony stalking offense if the court had previously convicted you of domestic violence, making criminal threats, or violating a restraining order.
According to the California Penal Code, if you have a previous domestic violence conviction, a new stalking charge could result in imprisonment in a county jail for at least a year and/or payment of a fine. Alternatively, the court may decide to send you to a state prison for a period of 2-5 years.
If you have a previous felony conviction of stalking, the law will prosecute the new stalking charge as a felony and can attract a prison sentence of 2-5 years, the California Penal Code states.
Just because the law has accused you of stalking does not automatically mean you are convicted of that crime. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can employ several defenses against a stalking charge.
You may argue that your threats were not credible because you lacked the means to actually execute these threats.
Sometimes, former intimate partners can assume that their ex-partner is the one harassing or stalking them even when someone else is.
Your attorney can deploy several resources such as hiring stalking experts and private investigators to demonstrate that you are innocent of the crime the law has accused you of.
Stalking, especially within the context of domestic violence, is a serious offense that can result in jail time and, worse, earn you a sex offender status. Seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you fight a stalking charge.
At The Law Office of Ralph Torres, we understand the grave consequences of a stalking or domestic violence conviction. With over 25 years' experience, you can trust us to put up an aggressive defense for you. If your former partner has accused you of stalking, get in touch with us today to discuss your legal options.