Stalking / Aggravated Stalking
When a relationship ends, one party may harbor resentment. In some cases, an obsession leads one person to attempt to stay in connect with another person even when it becomes clear that the contact is not longer wanted. Often the line between acceptable contact and stalking is difficult to define.
In other cases, the alleged victim will make a false or exaggerated accusation just to seek revenge against the person accused. The motivation may even be to gain an advantage in an upcoming or anticipated divorce or child custody hearing.
A law enforcement officer can make an arrest for stalking or aggravated stalking without a warrant if the officer has probable cause to believe the offense occurred. This often means the arrest is made after an accusation by the alleged victim, even if no other information supports the accusation. No matter the situation, a criminal defense lawyer in Tallahassee can help.
Tallahassee Stalking Defense Attorney
When an accusation of stalking is alleged, the person accused of the crime should contact an attorney immediately. The Florida Panhandle criminal defense attorneys at Pumphrey Law can help you get your life back on track after allegations of stalking. The attorneys will help you find the best defense to fight the charges.
The first step is stopping all contact, even if the complaining witness attempts to resume communication. An allegation can lead to a criminal charge for the misdemeanor of simple stalking or the more serious felony offense for making a credible threat or stalking after an injunction is entered. The courts often attach "no bond" conditions to the felony charges or the court could set very high bonds.
Pumphrey Law represents clients throughout Tallahassee and the surrounding Big Bend areas, including Bristol in Liberty County, Quincy in Gadsden County, Crawfordville in Wakulla County and Monticello in Jefferson County. Our attorneys at Pumphrey Law are ready to discuss what you need to do to protect yourself after these serious charges have been made against you. Call (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation.
Florida Stalking Information Center
- Stalking Offenses in Florida
- Felony Aggravated Stalking Statutes
- Stalking a Minor Child under the Age of 16 Years
- Harassment with Written Threats to Kills or Inflict Bodily Injury
- Florida Stalking Resources
Stalking charges often can accompany domestic violence cases. A person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows, harasses or cyberstalks another person can be arrested and charged with the offense of stalking, according to Florida Statutes § 784.048.
Harassment is defined as any conduct that causes substantial emotional distress in a person. The actions or conduct must be directed at a person and cannot serve a legitimate purpose, according to the statute.
According to Florida law, willful and malicious generally, means the person intentionally and deliberately followed, harassed or engaged in the cyber stalking of another person. This means it was done without legal justification or any legal excuse.
Cyber stalking is a unique form of stalking. The term refers to the engaging in a pattern of conduct such as communicating through language, images or words through electronic communication. This can mean text messages, e-mail, social media, blogs, internet forums or through website content.
To qualify as cyber stalking, the content must be directed at a specific person. For instance, it cannot be directed at a group of people, a race or a team. It must be toward a specific person. The contact or content also must not serve a legitimate purpose and it must be proven it caused that person substantial or emotional distress.
Even if the alleged offender did not intend to cause harm or emotional distress to the other person, he or she still could be charged with stalking if they followed or harassed that person. Under Florida Statute § 784.048(2), the offense is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Stalking may rise to the level of aggravated stalking if the unlawful contact involves a "credible threat" of death or bodily injury. For example, if a person repeatedly follows another and threatens to harm him or her, it could be considered aggravated stalking.
However, a threat does not have to be made for it to be considered aggravated stalking. If there is a "credible threat," the charge could apply. Florida law defines the term “credible threat” to mean a threat to cause death or bodily injury made with the intention of putting the victim in reasonable fear of his or her safety.
For example, if an alleged offender repeatedly follows someone and slashes his or her car tires or harms a family pet, it could be implied there is a "credible threat" to that person's safety.
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(3), the offense of aggravated stalking after a credible threat is made is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. In order to prove aggravated stalking at trial, the prosecutor must prove:
- The defendant repeatedly, maliciously and willfully harassed, followed or cyberstalked the alleged victim
- The defendant communicated a credible threat with the intention of putting the victim in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to the alleged victim or the victim's child, dependent, sibling or spouse
The aggravated stalking offense also could be alleged if the unlawful contact occurs after a domestic violence protective order or injunction is ordered. The court must be able to prove a protective order was issued, the person knew it was issued and he or she voluntarily violated it.
If the alleged victim of the stalking incident is under the age of 16 years old, the offense will be charged as a felony instead of a misdemeanor. It then would be considered aggravated stalking, according to Florida Statute § 784.048(3).
When stalking is related to unlawful contact with a child under the age of 16 it is a third-degree felony punishable by five years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine.
One criminal offense that is related to stalking or aggravated stalking involves the crime of harassment through making written threats to kill or inflict bodily injury. If a person writes a threat to do harm or kill a person or that person's family member, it could be considered harassment. According to the law, the prosecution must prove the letter was sent to the person, whether signed or anonymously.
This harassment is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison or a $5,000 fine.
Florida's Stalking Laws - Read more about stalking with information, statistics, stories and more from AARDVARC.org (An Abuse, Rape and Domestic Violence Aid and Resource Collection).
Florida State University (FSU) Stalking Information for Students - Any allegation of stalking, assault, battery, or sexual assault or battery (rape) and lead to disciplinary action against the college or university student including suspending or expelling the student from the campus for Florida State University (FSU). FSU's internet website includes a description of stalking and domestic violence crimes, red flag behavior, common responses, and information on what to do if you are being stalked including filing a restraining order or the University Judicial process.
Finding An Aggravated Stalking Defense Lawyer in Tallahassee
Contact a criminal defense lawyer at Pumphrey Law. Our lawyers are experienced in defending men and women who have falsely been accused of stalking or harassment. Talking to an experienced domestic violence defense attorney in Tallahassee about these charges is a way to gain valuable advice on what you need to do today to protect yourself against this serious accusation. Call (850) 681-7777 for a free consultation.
Article last updated August 5, 2016.
Attorney Don Pumphrey Jr. is a former prosecutor, former law enforcement officer, and a successful and experienced criminal defense attorney.