In California, stalking is discussed in Penal Code 646.9– this code was enacted in 1990. Though most people think of celebrity stalking cases when they think of the crime of stalking, it is far more common than that. We often see stalking in relation to domestic violence cases, through the Internet or even at workplaces. In 1993 the penal code was amended to make it stronger—this was accomplished by broadening the behaviors that are considered criminal stalking and increasing the potential penalties of a conviction. Currently, California legislature states that following or harassing another person and threatening that person with the intent of making them fear for their safety or the safety of their family can be grounds for being charged with stalking. There is no set behavior that is automatically considered stalking, rather there are a variety of behaviors that are associated with stalking. These behaviors include following some, making repeated phone calls, house visits, or sending them multiple letters or emails, sending repeated unwanted gifts or notes, damaging the victim’s property and more.
In order for there to be a conviction, the prosecutor must prove that you willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed or harassed another person, you made a credible threat against that person and that you did so with the intent to make that person fear for either themselves or their family.
Stalking is considered a wobbler in California; this means that it can be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the case and your criminal history. If, however, the stalking happened in violation of a court order or if you have been previously convicted of stalking then the crime will automatically be charged as a felony. If you are charged with a misdemeanor, the penalties can include informal probation, up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, counseling, and/or a restraining order prohibiting you from contacting the victim. If you are charged with a felony, the penalties can include formal probation, 16 months to 5 years in California State Prison, a fine of up to $1,000, counseling, a restraining order, and registration as a sex offender. There are certain factors that may increase your felony sentence; these include causing the victim great bodily harm or being armed at the time of the offense.
An attorney may argue that the threat you presented was so improbable that there was no way a reasonable person would have taken you seriously—essentially that the alleged threat was not credible. They may argue that you were participating in a constitutionally protected activity such as free speech, protesting or participating in an assembly. Another argument may be that the victim in this case has the wrong person or that they are accusing you falsely and that they are mistaken.
If you or a loved one is facing a stalking charge, you need an aggressive Orange County criminal defense lawyer on your side. With offices in Costa Mesa, we serve people throughout Southern California, including in Huntington Beach, Irvine, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa, and Los Angeles. Call (855) 505-5588 or contact us online for a free initial consultation.