Stalking, more commonly thought of as harassment, is a crime outlined by Florida Statute 784.048. Stalking can include harassment, cyberstalking, or following a person. The circumstances of the offense can result in either a misdemeanor or a felony charge. With people using social media to connect with friends more and more, cyberstalking, or as it is sometimes referred to as “cyberbullying” can result in being charged criminally.What is Stalking?
Stalking often conjures up the image of a shadowy figure following someone home at night, or an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend repeatedly contacting his or her former partner. While these examples do display stalking, the crime can apply to a variety of circumstances. The statute defines stalking as willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person. Harassment means to “engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose” [Florida Jury Instructions §784.04(1)(a)]. Course of conduct means “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose” [Florida Jury Instructions §784.048(1)(b)]. Based on this broad definition, behavior that lasts for as little as an hour, or even less, can be considered harassment. Notice how stalking does not require a person to make a threat. Continuously involving yourself in the life of another without a legitimate purpose can put you at risk of being arrested.
Stalking is considered a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up 12 months in jail, 12 months probation, and a fine of $1,000. In addition, aggravating circumstances can result in steeper penalties.Aggravated Stalking
Aggravated stalking is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in jail, 5 years probation, and a fine of $5,000. Aggravated stalking can occur when you make a credible threat against the victim. Even if you have no intent to carry out the threat, the State only needs to prove that the threat was made, either verbally or nonverbally, and that it created a reasonable fear for the victim’s safety, or the safety of individuals closely associated with them [Fl. Stat. 784.048 (1)(c) and Fl. Stat. 784.048(3)]. Violating an injunction for protection against repeat violence, sexual violence, dating violence or domestic violence will also result in a third degree felony classification [Fl. Stat. 784.048(4)]. The same applies if the victim is a child under 16 years of age [Fl. Stat. 784.048(5)].The Thompson Law Approach
Matt Thompson defended a stalking case in Daytona Beach, Florida, where a dispute between neighbors erupted. There was no physical violence, just constant harassment back and forth between the neighbors. The alleged victims in the case repeatedly taped Mr. Thompson’s client whenever she was outside of her home. In an effort to defend his client, Attorney Thompson successfully filed a Motion to keep the video tapes out of evidence. As with all criminal cases, the State has the burden of proving every element of the charge beyond and to the exclusion of every reasonable doubt. As a former prosecutor, attorney Matt Thompson knows what weaknesses to look for in the State’s evidence and, more importantly, how to best present those weakness to a judge or jury. This means that we begin attacking the State’s evidence the moment you begin working with us. We start by speaking directly to you about the incident. This allows us to create a defense that is unique to the circumstances of your case. Thompson Law was designed to remain a small firm so that we can give each client the individualized attention his or her case needs. Unlike large law firms, when you hire Thompson Law, you are given direct access to your attorney via phone and email. When it comes to cases where years of imprisonment are on the line, having an attorney who you are able to contact easily is a great benefit to your case. If you’re facing serious charges, do not hesitate to call us for your free case evaluation.