Stalking is a serious crime in Florida. Even Misdemeanor stalking can lead to jail time and hefty fines. Since the legal definition of stalking covers a wide range of activities, when behavior that is not meant to be threatening is perceived that way, a stalking charge could result.
Stalking is not a charge to take lightly. If you are facing a stalking charge, or if someone has filed a complaint against you, having one of our experienced Attorneys at Leifert & Leifert by your side is essential.
What Actions are Considered Stalking According to the Law?
Stalking is considered a pattern of behavior toward a specific person that has no purpose except to frighten, intimidate, or harass that person. Note that there must be multiple examples of these actions to meet the definition of stalking.
Some behaviors that could lead to stalking charges include:
- Showing up at a person’s home or workplace uninvited and without legitimate purpose
- Collecting private information about a person without their permission
- Repeatedly contacting or attempting to contact a person by phone, text, letters, or emails
- Following someone or monitoring their activities (a single incident of following can lead to a stalking charge)
- Taking photographs or video of a person without their knowledge or consent
- Vandalizing someone’s property with the intent to scare or harass them
It also is a crime to monitor a person’s electronic devices and social media accounts without permission and for the purpose of harassment or to inflict emotional distress. Criminal cyberstalking requires that the victim know of the stalking activity—for example, passive monitoring of someone’s Facebook account without attempts to contact them would not be a crime.
Restraining Orders Bar Contact
Anyone who feels they are being stalked may apply for a restraining order at the local Circuit Court. A Judge will grant a restraining order if the person requesting it (the petitioner) alleges that someone (the respondent) is engaging in a pattern of behavior that has no purpose except to cause the petitioner emotional distress.
Typical restraining orders bar the respondent from contacting the petitioner and prohibit the respondent from coming within 500 feet of the petitioner or petitioner’s home, school or workplace, or within 100 feet of the petitioner’s vehicle. They also bar respondents from possessing guns or ammunition.
Restraining orders go into effect at the moment the respondent is served with the Order, even though no one has heard the respondent’s side of the story yet.
The law requires a hearing to determine whether the restraining order should remain in effect. This hearing should occur within 15 days of the date of issuance of the restraining order. An Attorney at Leifert & Leifert could help a respondent to present their side of the story and try to ease at least some of the restrictions in a restraining order brought about by an alleged stalking offense.
Classifications of a Stalking Offense
A charge of stalking is a first-degree Misdemeanor. A person who is convicted of stalking in Tequesta faces up to one year of imprisonment in the Palm Beach County jail.
Aggravated stalking is a third-degree Felony. Stalking behavior that includes threats of bodily harm to the person, their family, or their pets is aggravated stalking. Stalking anyone under 16 years of age is aggravated stalking, and there need be no threats of physical harm when the subject of the stalking is under 16. The violation of a restraining order could lead to an aggravated stalking charge.
A person convicted of aggravated stalking faces up to five years imprisonment, although the sentence could be longer for repeat offenders. Domestic violence Lawyers might present evidence to help an accused person avoid a Felony charge and avoid these harsh consequences.
Schedule a Consultation with a Tequesta Stalking Attorney
Law Enforcement takes stalking seriously and does all it can to protect the subjects of stalking. If someone has accused you of stalking, it can feel like the deck is stacked against you.
An Attorney could present your point of view in a persuasive way and help ensure that the legal process is fair. This might increase your chances of avoiding a conviction for stalking. Call a Tequesta stalking Lawyer at Leifert & Leifert as soon as you have been arrested for stalking or served with a restraining order.