California Penal Code § 646.9 makes it a criminal offense to stalk another person. It is not enough to simply follow, harass, or threaten another person, but doing so must place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety. A violation of this statutory section is a wobbler offense, and therefore stalking may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
To obtain a conviction under CPC §646.9(a), the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant willfully and maliciously harassed or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed another person; and made a credible threat with the intent of placing the person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her immediate family.
For purposes of this statute, individuals commit an act willfully when they do it willingly or on purpose. Individuals act maliciously when they intentionally do a wrongful act or when they act with the unlawful intent to disturb, annoy, or injure someone else. Repeatedly means more than once.
A credible threat may be implied by a pattern or a combination of statements and conduct. As to reasonable fear, California courts decide this issue by reviewing each case’s facts and circumstances. True threats do not include constitutionally protected speech, jokes, or exaggerated political statements. Immediate family includes spouses, children, siblings, grandchildren, and individuals who regularly live within the victim’s household.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the offense is punishable by up to one year in county jail, or misdemeanor (or summary) probation. If charged as a felony, the offense is punishable by up to five years in state prison or felony (or formal) probation. Stalking under this statute is punishable under California’s three-strikes sentencing system. Three strikes will result in a minimum sentence of twenty-five years in a California prison.
The following are possible defenses to stalking:
- The accused’s conduct is constitutionally protected activity, such as reporting on public officials
- The threat was not credible
- The defendant lacked the intent to cause fear
- The victim made a false accusation
- The victim mistakenly identified the defendant as the stalker
In addition to criminal penalties, convicted stalkers are usually subject to a civil lawsuit brought by the alleged victim. Also, if a person is convicted of stalking, the conviction may have negative immigration consequences, if applicable, and negative consequences related to a person’s rights to use firearms.
Hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is crucial to defend any criminal charge. The advice, guidance, and representation of experienced criminal defense counsel may be crucial to achieving the best possible result in any criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has forty years of criminal defense experience. Contact Dolan Law Offices today at 760-775-3739 or 562-824-4007 to discuss your situation or find out more online here.