In a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control, researchers found that in the United States, approximately one million women and 400,000 men are stalked each year. In California, anti-stalking laws were enacted in 1990 as a response to the murders of two prominent actresses who had been killed by their stalkers.
Today, California law defines stalking as following, harassing, and threatening another person to the point that they fear for their safety. While many people suffer from the abuse of stalkers, in some cases, people are falsely accused. If you have been wrongly charged with stalking in Santa Barbara, it is imperative to seek legal counsel from a Santa Barbara stalking defense lawyer.
California's Stalking Laws
Under California law, it is illegal to follow, harass, or threaten someone to the point where they fear for their wellbeing and safety. Some examples of stalking include:
- Non-consensual communication. This may include an ex who repeatedly calls you or sends unwanted gifts. This also includes unwanted, repetitive cyber communication, such as spamming your email inbox or sending excessive social media messages.
- Repeated, unwanted appearances at a physical location. This may include someone repeatedly waiting at the location of your employer for you to arrive at work or following you to your house without your consent.
- Repeated messages that use intimidating and threatening language. This may include someone leaving a symbolic threat on your property.
- Illegal surveillance. This includes someone installing video cameras in your home to have visual access to your personal life.
- Illegal use of tracking devices. This includes someone using a GPS or other form of tracking software to monitor your whereabouts without your consent.
These are just a few examples of behaviors that fall under the umbrella of stalking. In California, stalking is a wobbler, meaning it may be charged as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances of the case. The penalties you may face from a stalking offense depend on whether you face misdemeanor or felony charges.
The Potential Penalties of Stalking Charges
If you are involved in a stalking offense, you may face both civil and criminal penalties. If you are charged with the criminal offense of stalking, you may face the following consequences:
- If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you may face a fine of up to $1,000, up to one year in county jail, and a probation sentence.
- If you are convicted of a felony, you may face a fine of up to $1,000, up to five years in California State Prison, and a supervised probation period.
Although stalking is a wobbler in California, the defendant often faces felony charges if any of the two following conditions are present in their case:
- They have a previous stalking conviction—even if it did not involve the same victim.
- Their stalking violated a court-issued restraining or protective order.
In addition to any criminal convictions and associated penalties, the defendant in a stalking case may be served with a lawsuit from the alleged victim in civil court. A civil lawsuit from an alleged victim may be filed in attempts to gain financial compensation and recover punitive damages related to any stalking behavior. If the alleged victim is successful in civil court, the defendant may have to pay any court-ordered compensation.
Potential Defenses to Stalking Charges
There are a variety of strong defense strategies a stalking defense lawyer may use to reduce or dismiss stalking charges. Some of the most common defenses for stalking charges include:
- A lack of credible threat. To be guilty of stalking, an accused defendant must have made a “credible threat” to the alleged victim. Therefore, your defense lawyer may argue that while a threat may have been present, it was not serious or credible.
- A lack of intent to cause fear. Another key element of a stalking crime is a threat with the purpose of causing fear. This defense may assert that while a threat was made, it was not meant to cause fear.
- The alleged actions are protected under the defendant's constitutional rights. If the defendant's alleged stalking behaviors are protected under their constitutional rights, they did not commit a crime.
These are a few of the common approaches to defending a stalking charge. However, the specific strategy your lawyer may use may vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.
Consult a Skilled Santa Barbara Stalking Defense Lawyer
If you are facing stalking charges in Santa Barbara, the Aron Law Firm is here to help. Our firm provides clients facing stalking charges with a comprehensive analysis of their case and work tirelessly to obtain an optimal outcome. By limiting our client roster and the associated caseload, we are able to give more time and attention to each and every case. Our approach prioritizes getting our clients to a better place and understanding their needs at a deep level.
To schedule an appointment with an experienced stalking defense lawyer, call today at (805) 618-1768 or fill out our online contact form.