Every year, 7.5 million people fall victim to stalking in the United States. While stalking often occurs when trying to leave abusive relationships, it can happen to anyone. Stalkers can be complete strangers or someone the victim actually knows well.
While stalking is a serious crime resulting in a felony or misdemeanor charge, when you’ve been accused of the crime, know that not all hope is lost. Scranton criminal defense attorney Craig Kalinoski is here for you.
What is stalking?
Under Pennsylvania law, a person commits the crime of stalking when the person either:
- 1. Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person with an intent to place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person; or
- 2. Engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person with the intent to place the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person.
Under the law, stalking charges may be considered in the place where the stalking communication or act occurred, or where the act or communication was received. In cases where there is a pattern of conduct established in multiple jurisdictions, the evidence may be utilized by any and all jurisdictions involved.
If this is a first time offender, stalking is graded as a first-degree misdemeanor. However, second or subsequent charges carry stronger penalties.
A person charged with stalking may be charged with a felony of the third degree where it is a second or subsequent charge if the person has been previously convicted of a crime of violence involving the same victim, family, or household member, including, but not limited to:
- Simple Assault
- Aggravated Assault
- Recklessly Endangering Another Person
- Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse
- Violation of a Protective Order
Remember, a first-degree misdemeanor can hold a penalty of 2.5 to 5 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A third-degree felony may result in 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
False Reports of Stalking
Whether it is an act of revenge, a preexisting fear of being watched, or something much more malicious, in some cases, false reports of stalking occur, making someone the target of a crime they did not commit.
In Pennsylvania, a person who knowingly gives false information to any law enforcement officer with the intent to implicate another under this section commits an offense punishable as a misdemeanor of the third degree, resulting in up to one year in prison and a fine up to $2,500.
While in cases of false reports, the right criminal defense attorney will be able to connect the dots that you are not the person the victim has made you out to be.
But when it is not the case of false reports, you do have other legal defenses.
In Pennsylvania, stalking charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when flimsy evidence is provided to the prosecution, these charges can quickly fall apart. Common defenses to stalking charges include:
- Failure to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt;
- The victim lied about the events that occurred or the communications that took place; or
- The victim intentionally or mistakenly identified the wrong person as the stalker.
While these are the common defenses to stalking charges in Pennsylvania, there are other options your criminal defense attorney can present to you to mitigate the evidence and get you a lesser sentence.
What Not To Do When Accused of Stalking
Pulled from the scripts of major television and online programming, you may have seen the things that those accused of a crime do to try to mitigate the situation without legal help. However, in most cases, the things you see on TV are not what you should be doing.
If you are being investigated for a stalking charge, you should be prepared to provide your attorney with any information about your case, the relationship you have with the victim, and how this may have even occurred.
But there are things you should not do, too. The following actions can land you in more trouble. Do not, by any means:
- Talk to the victim or contact them in any way
- Talk to law enforcement without your attorney
- Provide evidence to law enforcement without your attorney
While you may think this is innocent enough, the reality is that it can implicate you of serious charges. Do not handle your stalking charge alone.
Stalking Charges in Pennsylvania: Free Consultation
If you have been accused of stalking, you need legal advice immediately. Do not speak to law enforcement or take action until you secure the legal representation of Scranton criminal defense attorney Craig Kalinoski. Call (570) 207-4000 or use our contact form today to schedule an appointment and discuss your case during a free consultation.