What Counts as Stalking?
Posted on October 26th, 2022 in Criminal Charges
Stalking feels like something that’s simple to understand. Someone follows another person without their permission and keeps track of their life in an intrusive manner. When we think of a stalker, we think of someone in a hoodie following someone around town. But in the age of the internet, it’s also considered stalking by many to follow and obsessively check someone’s social media profiles.
This has led to a complication of what is considered stalking and what is not. It has only gotten more complicated, and so have the punishments for it as well. If you’re accused of stalking, you need to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately just to understand the penalties you may face. Lifetime Lawyer Craig Kalinoski can help.
What is the Legal Definition of Stalking?
In the state of Pennsylvania, stalking has several definitions to consider with different degrees of severity and punishment. These definitions include:
- When someone repeatedly follows a person without being given reasonable permission from an authority, such as a municipality or federal agency, with the intent to cause bodily harm, fear, or other forms of emotional distress.
- When someone repeatedly contacts or communicates with someone who has explicitly instructed that they do not want to be contacted. The repeated contact must demonstrate, threaten, and/or cause bodily harm, fear, or other forms of emotional distress.
Pennsylvania law explicitly states that unwanted communication in the case of stalking includes:
- Talking in person
- Phone calls
- Public social media posting
- Social media direct messaging
Emotional distress is defined by Pennsylvania law as “a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.”
When Are You Being Stalked?
Based on the definition and the types of communication that can be considered stalking, following another person, seeking out information about them, or attempting to do either of these two things repeatedly is stalking. The important distinction between stalking and another singular misdemeanor or felony is that stalking has to be repeated.
If someone follows another person once, confronts them in public or private property, or contacts them with threats only once, this isn’t stalking. Even if someone does something twice, this wouldn’t be considered stalking. It may be considered another felony or misdemeanor, such as breaking and entering or harassment, but not stalking, which carries heavier penalties.
If someone commits multiple different actions, this would be considered repeated action. They do not have to commit the same action multiple times.
When it comes to cyber-stalking, if someone is searching for information publicly posted by the person supposedly being stalked, it wouldn’t be stalking. To be a stalker, they have to be intrusive and threatening, not knowledgeable of publicly available information.
What Are the Penalties?
Stalking in itself is only a first-degree misdemeanor for first-time offenders, which carries a penalty of 2.5 to 5 years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine. While prison time and a fine are always serious, people charged also find themselves often charged with another penalty. When someone stalks another person, they do so by committing other crimes, such as assault, breaking and entering, kidnapping, harassment, destruction of property, and more.
It is usually just the first offense that becomes the motivation for the other more serious criminal charges that will follow.
There are instances where it is the only crime that can be proven. These examples usually are cases of cyber-stalking. If someone is not a first-time offender or has committed other crimes involving the victim, their family, or another household member, the charge will become a felony of the third degree. The penalty for a felony of the third degree includes 3.5 to 7 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
If You’re Charged with Stalking, Contact Kalinoski Law
If you’ve been charged with stalking, you’re likely to face many more criminal charges. You need an experienced and dedicated attorney by your side so you can defend yourself against false reports. It’s not unheard of for victims to mistakenly identify someone as their stalker or misconstrue someone’s actions.
If you’ve been charged, do not try to contact the victim in any way. Don’t provide evidence to the police without an attorney, and don’t even talk to law enforcement without an attorney. Instead, contact Lifetime Lawyer Craig Kalinoski.