Philadelphia Criminal Defense Lawyers for Stalking Charges
If you are under investigation or facing criminal charges for stalking, we can help. Our award-winning Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers routinely defend against stalking, harassment, domestic violence, and other related criminal charges in courts throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey. We have successfully defended countless clients in both criminal court and against Protection from Abuse ("PFA") Petitions. We have had success in having stalking charges dismissed, downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors, and in obtaining acquittals at trial. Call 267-225-2545 to speak with an experienced and understanding defense attorney today.
What is Stalking?
Stalking is a serious charge under Pennsylvania law. Under certain circumstances, it can be graded as a felony. Even as a misdemeanor, a conviction for stalking carries with it a unique negative stigma and may cause significant problems when seeking educational and employment opportunities. Further, if the defendant is convicted, the judge may feel that the only way to put an end to the behavior is to sentence the defendant to a sentence of incarceration. Therefore, it is important to know what the prosecution must prove in order to convict someone of stalking.
There are a number of different ways for the Commonwealth to prove stalking. In general, the Commonwealth must show that the defendant engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly committed acts towards another person under circumstances which demonstrated an intent to place the person in fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress. The Commonwealth may also prove stalking by showing that the defendant engaged in a course of conduct involving repeatedly communicating things to or about a person which placed the person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or caused substantial emotional distress to the person. Stalking could also include conduct such as following someone around on multiple occasions in order to frighten or intimidate them as well as repeatedly communicating negative things about the person to their friends, family, or employers.
Stalking Penalties in Pennsylvania
Stalking is typically graded as a misdemeanor of the first degree. However, it may be charged as a felony if the complainant has already obtained a Protection From Abuse ("PFA") order against the defendant or if the defendant has previously been convicted of a crime of violence against the same complainant. In that case, the prosecution may charge stalking as a felony of the third degree. First degree misdemeanors may be punished by fines of up to $10,000 and incarceration sentences of up to five years. Third degree felonies are punishable by fines of $15,000 and incarceration sentences of up to five years. Given the potential for significant fines and a jail sentence, these charges can be very serious. Even when the prosecution does not bring criminal charges, allegations of stalking could result in litigation for a Protection from Abuse order.
Defenses to Stalking Charges
Fortunately, there are often defenses to stalking charges, and our criminal lawyers have successfully defended countless clients against these serious charges. The defenses in any given case will vary depending on the circumstances and allegations. For example, it may be possible to challenge whether the defendant actually engaged in a course of conduct. The Commonwealth cannot prove its case merely by showing that the defendant followed someone - instead, the Commonwealth must show that the defendant engaged in a course of conduct, meaning that the defendant did more than one thing. Where the Commonwealth can only show that the defendant acted once, the defendant may be guilty of harassment, which is a less serious offense.
Likewise, it may be possible to show that the defendant did not actually intend to make contact with the complainant or that the defendant had a lawful reason for doing what was alleged.
Finally, stalking charges often come down to the credibility of the complainant. These types of charges commonly arise out of domestic disputes. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible to obtain evidence that the incident or incidents were fabricated and that the complainant is manipulating the justice system to gain leverage over a former romantic partner. It is an unfortunate reality of the court system that people routinely use both the criminal and civil courts in other to punish or gain leverage over other people. Our defense lawyers are always prepared to fully investigate your case and work with you in order to pursue the strongest possible legal and factual defenses to any criminal charges.
Our Stalking Defense Lawyers Can Help
The Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers are well-versed in the law surrounding stalking charges in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, and we know the defenses. Given that stalking trials often come down to witness credibility, it is important that you obtain an attorney who excels at cross examination and is not afraid to take a case to trial. If you are charged with this serious crime, you need the assistance of a Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer immediately. It is very important that you do not delay as valuable evidence and witnesses may be lost over time. Call 267-225-2545 for a complimentary 15-minute criminal defense strategy session with one of our criminal lawyers today.
CONTACT A PHILADELPHIA STALKING LAWYER TODAY
What is the Definition of Stalking in Pennsylvania?
§ 2709.1. Stalking.
(a) Offense defined.--A person commits the crime of stalking when the person either:
(1) engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person; or
(2) engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person under circumstances which demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person.
(1) An offense committed under this section may be deemed to have been committed at either the place at which the communication or communications were made or at the place where the communication or communications were received.
(2) Acts indicating a course of conduct which occur in more than one jurisdiction may be used by any other jurisdiction in which an act occurred as evidence of a continuing pattern of conduct or a course of conduct.
(1) Except as otherwise provided for in paragraph (2), a first offense under this section shall constitute a misdemeanor of the first degree.
(2) A second or subsequent offense under this section or a first offense under subsection (a) if the person has been previously convicted of a crime of violence involving the same victim, family or household member, including, but not limited to, a violation of section 2701 (relating to simple assault), 2702 (relating to aggravated assault), 2705 (relating to recklessly endangering another person), 2901 (relating to kidnapping), 3121 (relating to rape) or 3123 (relating to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse), an order issued under section 4954 (relating to protective orders) or an order issued under 23 Pa.C.S. § 6108 (relating to relief) shall constitute a felony of the third degree.
(d) False reports.--A person who knowingly gives false information to any law enforcement officer with the intent to implicate another under this section commits an offense under section 4906 (relating to false reports to law enforcement authorities).
(e) Application of section.--This section shall not apply to constitutionally protected activity.
(f) Definitions.--As used in this section, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings given to them in this subsection:
"Communicates." To convey a message without intent of legitimate communication or address by oral, nonverbal, written or electronic means, including telephone, electronic mail, Internet, facsimile, telex, wireless communication or similar transmission.
"Course of conduct." A pattern of actions composed of more than one act over a period of time, however short, evidencing a continuity of conduct. The term includes lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings, caricatures or actions, either in person or anonymously. Acts indicating a course of conduct which occur in more than one jurisdiction may be used by any other jurisdiction in which an act occurred as evidence of a continuing pattern of conduct or a course of conduct.
"Emotional distress." A temporary or permanent state of mental anguish.
"Family or household member." Spouses or persons who have been spouses, persons living as spouses or who lived as spouses, parents and children, other persons related by consanguinity or affinity, current or former sexual or intimate partners or persons who share biological parenthood.