Defending a Stalking Charge
Stalking is a relatively new crime classification and most stalking statutes did not exist prior to the late 1990s. These laws were created in response to a large number of high-profile harassment cases involving celebrities, which brought national attention to this new classification of crime. In response, states began enacting stalking laws, which generally combine existing elements of assault and harassment. While California was the first state to criminalize the act of stalking, Florida was the second.
Florida Stalking Laws
Under Florida law, a stalking charge must meet the following criteria:
- The action must be willful, malicious and repeated. This criteria speaks to the intent of the accused. It means that an occasional or accidental occurrence is not sufficient to support the crime. The accused must intend to commit constant actions for the purpose of causing distress or ill feelings.
- The accused must follow, harass or cyberstalk another person. This criteria lays out the necessary actions to constitute the crime. Prosecution of a stalking charge requires proof that the defendant physically followed or actively harassed the alleged victim. Cyberstalking refers to harassment that is done via the internet.
The seriousness of the crime ranges from a first degree misdemeanor to a third degree felony. Additional actions result in higher punishments.
- If a credible threat is made in addition to the stalking, the crime elevates to a felony in the third degree. In these situations, the threat must place the alleged victim in reasonable fear of bodily harm.
- Stalking that is completed after a court order or injunction for protection is in place also rises to the level of a third degree felony.
- Stalking a minor under the age of 16 years old is a third degree felony.
- Making written threats of bodily harm or death results in a second degree felony charge.
Defending a Stalking Charge
While it is undeniable that there are individuals who actively work to make the lives of others miserable by stalking them, it is also undeniable that every stalking allegation is not based in fact. Florida’s stalking laws are broad and open for substantial interpretation by the courts. When charged with stalking, your lawyer may present the court with information about the totality of your relationship with the alleged victim. Additionally, each of the alleged incidents must rise to the elements of the crime. A defense lawyer may argue that the contact was invited by the other party, or that the accused was in the vicinity of the other party for reasons unrelated to stalking, which may negate the required intent. Lastly, a successful defense may assert that the accuser is blatantly untruthful about the actions of the accused. By proving any of these circumstances, an experienced lawyer can argue that your actions did not rise to the level of stalking.
If you or a loved one is facing stalking charges, Attorneys Mycki Ratzan and Jude Faccidomo can provide you with an aggressive and comprehensive defense. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo, LLC in Miami today at (305) 330-3905 for a confidential and free consultation.