Personal relationships and interactions can be complicated, especially when they end, and a great deal of discussion in recent years has been devoted to stalking and similar forms of unwanted attention and harassment. The Florida Legislature has responded by designating this type of conduct as a criminal offense, with varying degrees of seriousness, all capable of yielding substantial penalties, relative to the charge.
If you have been accused of making repeated, unwanted contacts to or threats against another, now is the time to contact a West Palm Beach stalking lawyer. The help of an experienced attorney is essential in these cases. En Español.
Fundamentals of Florida Stalking Laws
Generally speaking, Stalking means to engage in multiple instances over time of willful and malicious acts of harassment against another party. As provided by Fla. Stat. §784.048, the crime of stalking can give rise to misdemeanor or felony charges, depending on the specific behavior in question. For instance:
- An individual who maliciously, willfully and repeatedly harasses, follows or cyberstalks another will be guilty of a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in Jail and a $1,000 fine
- A person who engages in the above behavior and also makes a credible threat to the target of the stalking has committed aggravated stalking, a third degree felony, punishable by up to five (5) years in State Prison and a $5,000 fine
- Someone who violates an order of protection related to domestic or sexual violence by stalking or cyberstalking is also guilty of aggravated stalking, a third degree felony offense, punishable by up to five (5) years in State Prison and a $5,000 fine
- Stalking or cyberstalking a child under the age of 16 is also classified as aggravated stalking, a felony in the third degree. punishable by up to five (5) years in State Prison and a $5,000 fine
Key Definitions in Stalking Statute
In order to fully grasp the meaning of Florida’s stalking statute and what might give rise to criminal charges, it is important to understand some of the defined terms therein.
- “Harassment” is explained as a course of conduct aimed at a specific individual that produces emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose
- “Credible threat” is a nonverbal or verbal communication that places the target in reasonable fear for their safety or those close to them ( family members or new partners)
- “Cyberstalk” is to use electronic forms of communication, words and/or images to cause a specific person emotional distress, absent any legitimate purpose
Ramifications of a Florida Stalking Conviction
Given the penalties to which those found guilty of stalking routinely face in Florida courts, it is important that such charges never be taken lightly.
If categorized as a first-degree misdemeanor, a stalking offense can bring upwards of a year in jail along with a $1,000 fine. Aggravated stalking charges can produce even more onerous outcomes, including incarceration of up to five years as well as fines of up to $5,000.
The resulting criminal record and possible issuance of restraining orders can make life extremely difficult long after a formal sentence has been served. West Palm Beach attorneys have seen charges like these effect a person’s employment, professional licenses and even where a person can live when the need Condominium, HOA or leasing office approval.
Constructing a Vigorous Defense
Those claiming to be the victims of stalking often appear quite sympathetic, causing Clients to doubt their chances of beating the allegations against them. However, there are numerous strategies often available in such circumstances which can cause charges to be reduced or perhaps even dismissed in their entirety.
Ultimately, there is no substitute for the experienced insights and counsel of a Florida defense attorney who is ready and willing to delve into the facts and highlight weaknesses in the Petitioner or Victim’s case.
Taking the Initiative Against Stalking Charges in Florida
If you or a loved one has been accused of engaging in criminal stalking, any delay in securing zealous legal representation is not an option or in your best interests. By aligning with a West Palm Beach stalking lawyer, you can begin the process of safeguarding your interests, your freedom and your good name.