Being accused of stalking has serious implications in California. You could face hefty consequences, particularly if you’re charged with a felony. Convictions carry sentences that mean time behind bars or high fines. Finding the right defense attorney in Folsom is your best chance at fighting these charges.

If you’ve been charged with stalking in Folsom, CA, call Walsh Law now. Experienced stalking defense lawyer Chris Walsh is ready to hear your story. Call 916-237-8270 or use our secure form to schedule a free consultation.

What is Stalking in California?

California Penal Code § 646.9 defines stalking as any time someone “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person in a way that causes that victim to feel there is a credible threat to their safety.”

A genuine stalking charge means the accused did something more than once that makes the alleged victim feel genuinely scared. These actions can also apply to members of the victim’s household.

Stalking can take a few forms. For example, someone could receive multiple threatening notes from the same person over a few weeks. Or a coworker could call after working hours repeatedly asking for a date.

Stalking is a “Wobbler” Offense

Many crimes in California can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, which are considered a “wobbler” offense. Stalking is one of them. The severity of the charges you receive will depend on the criminal acts you’re facing. For instance, a lengthy period of stalking with explicit threats or harassment may warrant a felony-level charge, while a few calls made at odd hours may only result in a misdemeanor.

A Folsom stalking defense lawyer can explain the nuances of the law and help you understand your charges.

The Elements of a Stalking Case

In a stalking case, there are certain aspects or elements that the prosecution must prove in order to have a valid claim against the defendant. They must prove that 1) the defendant willfully and maliciously harassed or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed another person, and 2) that the defendant made a credible threat with the intent to cause the victim to fear for their or their family’s safety.

Breaking down these elements, there could be room to raise doubt about the circumstances that caused your charges.

Were Your Actions Willful, Malicious, or Repeated?

A prosecutor will need to prove that you acted on purpose with the intent to disturb, annoy, or injure the victim and that you did something against the victim more than once.

Were You Harassing the Victim?

Under the law, harassing means the accused was acting in a way that would annoy, alarm, torment, or terrorize the victim. The accused stalker would know their conduct would not serve a legitimate purpose.

Did You Pose a Credible Threat?

Credible threats are actions that made the victim or their family have a real fear for their safety. These threats are also acts that could be carried out. They could be written, verbal, or sent electronically.

Charges Connected to Stalking

Some criminal charges are related to stalking, although being charged with one doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be charged with another. There are some instances when you could face multiple criminal charges, but the details will vary between cases.

  • Violation of a Protection Order (CPC § 273.6): more commonly known as a restraining order, these court-issued orders are meant to prevent the defendant from approaching or interacting with the person with the order. California has various orders that direct conduct or where someone can stay or live. If you’re accused of stalking someone with an order against you, you could be accused of breaking that order.
  • Domestic Violence (CPC § 243(3)(1)): domestic violence, sometimes called spousal battery or spousal assault, includes crimes against intimate or household members. A stalking charge could be related to domestic violence if you’re accused of harassing a member of your household or their family member, like an ex.
  • Assault (CPC § 240): in California, assault is defined as the unlawful attempt and capability to violently harm someone. An assault charge does not necessarily mean you actually hurt the victim but that you made the threat and had the capacity to harm them.

Your Folsom stalking defense lawyer can help you identify other charges that could be connected to your stalking case. They’ll help you find a good option to reduce or drop your charges.

Penalties for Stalking in California

Because stalking can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, your sentence depends on which level of charge is applied. Your charges will depend on what you’re accused of doing to the victim.

For a misdemeanor-level stalking charge, you will be facing up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. For felony-level charges, you could be imprisoned for up to five years, a fine of $1,000, and probation if convicted. You’re more likely to face a felony conviction if you’re accused of violating a restraining order or if you have previous stalking convictions.

Other Consequences You’ll Face if Convicted

If you’re convicted of stalking, you’ll have more than the criminal penalties to be concerned about. You may also face civil penalties if the alleged victim chooses to sue you for damages. A civil claim is different than a criminal case because the burden of proof on the plaintiff is less restrictive.

Therefore, you could face civil damages even if you aren’t convicted in a criminal court because a civil jury doesn’t need as much proof to convict.

You might also face:

  • Suspension or loss of professional licenses
  • Problems with citizenship or immigration
  • Difficulty finding housing or employment
  • Possible loss of gun ownership rights

Defenses Against Folsom Stalking Charges

A stalking accusation isn’t the end of the world. You are well within your rights to challenge a charge with the help of a California stalking defense lawyer. The prosecution must present evidence to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you committed the acts you’re accused of doing. A skilled attorney will find defenses that can cast doubt on their accusations.

You Didn’t Pose a Credible Threat

You can claim that you did not make a serious or credible threat to the alleged victim. Your attorney could present evidence that shows you were joking.

You Didn’t Mean to Cause Fear

It’s likely that if you were joking about your threat, you didn’t intend the alleged victim to feel afraid they would get hurt. With the right evidence, you can argue that you didn’t intend to create a sense of fear because of your actions.

Your Activity Was Protected By the Constitution

A huge defense against stalking accusations is protected activity which the Constitution covers. Acts like making exaggerated political statements, jokes, or making speeches at a protest are included in protected activity. Your attorney can argue that you were exercising your right to free speech, not targeting or harassing the alleged victim.

Stalking Charges FAQs

Does Using an Electronic Device Count as Stalking?

In most cases, if you are acting in a way that is meant to intimidate, harass, annoy, or threaten, you can be charged with stalking. You may be charged with cyberstalking if you’re committing these acts using a device, like a phone, computer, or tablet. That includes activity on social media. Cyberstalking carries similar charges to stalking.

How is a Victim’s “Reasonable Fear” Decided?

A court will examine a case’s circumstances to determine if a victim felt “reasonable fear.” In some cases, your criminal history may be evaluated, or if there are witnesses who can corroborate your past behavior, a victim’s story could hold up in court. An experienced attorney will find a way to discredit or raise doubt about a victim’s account of your actions.

How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help Me?

You have every right to defend yourself against stalking charges. A criminal conviction can have lifelong consequences, so finding a qualified attorney is your best chance at reducing your charges or getting them dropped altogether. Your attorney can review your arrest to ensure your rights weren’t violated. They can also investigate the alleged victim’s story. Your attorney can find the evidence that will create doubt in the prosecutor’s case.

Call a Folsom Stalking Defense Lawyer Now

If you’re facing a stalking charge in Folsom, you deserve representation that can help you put your mind at ease and get your life back to normal. At Walsh Law, we understand how disruptive criminal charges are and how they can affect your life. Attorney Chris Walsh uses his past experience as a prosecutor to help defend his clients. We’re ready to hear your case. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can start devising a defensive strategy.

Call our office at 916-237-8270 or use our secure form to schedule your free consultation.

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