Stalking charges can be extremely serious and may under certain circumstances lead to prison time. If you are charged with either stalking, aggravated stalking or cyberstalking, it is important to be represented by a knowledgable Tampa stalking lawyer. Kerstin Wade is on your side and will make sure your rights are not violated.
Stalking occurs when you repeatedly harass or follow someone either physically or electronically through the internet or by phone. Stalking is a crime and can be either a misdemeanor or a felony in Florida depending on the circumstances. However, the victim can also file for an injunction against the stalker. Kerstin Wade represents individuals charged with either the misdemeanor or felony offense of stalking or cyberstalking and she also represents individuals served with an injunction for protection against stalking.
Stalking is defined under Florida Statute 784.048. Subsection (2) of the statute makes stalking at least a first degree misdemeanor. Based on the statute, the prosecutor has to prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
The defendant repeatedly
Followed or harassed another person.
Harassing another person is defined as engaging in a pattern of conduct “directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.” Florida Statute 784.048(1)(a).
Without any aggravating factors stalking is a first degree misdemeanor and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail or probation and a $1,000 fine. The alleged victim can also file a restraining order against you that if granted would prevent any type of contact between you and the victim for a specified period of time.
There are 4 different scenarios under which the simple stalking charge, a misdemeanor, would be elevated to a felony. Each scenario would elevate the charge to a 3rd degree felony. Aggravated stalking includes one of the following scenarios:
Stalking of a victim under 16
Stalking after an injunction / restraining order
Stalking after being convicted of pornography, sexual battery or lewd and lascivious conduct and having a no contact order against the victim
Stalking with a credible threat.
Aggravated stalking is also defined in Florida Statute 784.048 but is addressed in subsections 3,4,5 and 7.
Subsection 5 of Florida statute 784.048 makes the repeated, malicious and willful harassment or cyberstalking of anybody under 16 years of age a 3rd degree felony. In order to prove this type of aggravated stalking, the prosecutor has to prove the same elements as for misdemeanor stalking plus the prosecutor has to prove that the victim was under 16.
Subsection 4 of Florida Statute 784.048 makes stalking a felony if the alleged victim already has a prior “injunction for protection against repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence, … or an injunction for protection against domestic violence” or if the court has already imposed any other type of court order, such as a no-contact order against the defendant.
For this type of aggravated stalking charge, the prosecutor has to prove the following elements in addition to the elements for stalking:
The defendant has been convicted of either sexual battery, lewd or lascivious conduct on a victim under 16 or computer pornography AND
The court imposed a no-contact order against the defendant.
Stalking with a credible threat is defined in paragraph 3 of Florida Statute 784.048 and is also a 3rd degree felony. For this charge, the prosecutor has to prove that the defendant stalked the defendant and that the defendant made a credible threat against the victim.
All of the aggravated stalking charges are 3rd degree felonies and are punishable by up to 5 years in prison and / or probation and a $5,000 fine. However, each one of these stalking charges is assigned a different severity level under Florida law. This severity level can make the difference between prison time and probation.
Aggravated stalking with a credible threat (as defined in paragraph 3 of Florida Statute 784.048 is assigned level 6. Aggravated staking of a victim under 16 is also assigned level 6. If you committed this crime and you have no prior offenses and no other charges in addition to the stalking charge, you will not score prison time. However, any additional points on the scoresheet for prior convictions or points for an additional charge may put you over the edge and lead to a prison sentence.
Aggravated stalking after an injunction or after a court order is assigned level 7. Level 7 offenses score high enough by themselves without any points for prior convictions or points for additional charges to lead to prison time. This means that even a first time offender may be sentenced to prison if charged with one of these crimes.
Cyberstalking is a relatively new offense that came about with all the advances in technology. Cyberstalking is defined as repeatedly, willfully and maliciously following or harassing someone by sending text messages, e-mails or contacting someone via social media or blogs for example. Cyberstalking can include but is not limited to cyberbullying, posting inappropriate things about the victim online, sexting or even masquerading as the victim. Cyberstalking is often harder to prove than physical stalking because the state has to prove the identity of the person who committed the acts. Since someone can easily make fake profiles on social media for example, this can be difficult. Police will often attempt to contact the alleged suspect and try to get him or her to make a statement that can then be used against them. Therefore, you should never talk to law enforcement without counsel being present. An experienced cyberstalking or cyber harassment lawyer will be able to help you defend against the charges and achieve the best outcome possible.
Cyberstalking is specifically defined in Florida Statute 784.048(1)(d) as
engaging “in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, directly or indirectly, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at or pertaining to a specific person; or
access[ing], or attempt[ing] to access, the online accounts or Internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission,
Causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.”
This means that one possible defense against cyberstalking can be that there was a legitimate purpose for the defendant’s acts.
Cyberstalking, just like physical stalking, can be either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on whether or not there are any aggravating circumstances, such as the victim being under 16 or a prior court order. If there are no aggravating circumstances cyberstalking is a 1st degree misdemeanor and punishable by up to 1 year in jail or on probation and a $1,000 fine. If there are aggravating circumstances, cyberstalking is a 3rd degree felony and punishable by up to 5 years in prison or on probation and a $5,000 fine.
If you or a loved one is charged with stalking, aggravated stalking or cyberstalking, it is important to contact an experienced and knowledgable Tampa stalking attorney. An attorney will have the necessary experience to investigate the case and determine what the best strategy is to handle the case and can mount an appropriate defense. Kerstin Wade has experience handling all kinds of criminal cases, including violent crimes and domestic violence.
Kerstin Wade handles criminal cases in the entire Tampa Bay area, including Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Sarasota and Manatee county. If you or a loved one is charged with stalking, aggravated stalking or cyberstalking, or any other crime, do not hesitate to contact Kerstin Wade at 813-401-0130 for a free consultation to see how we can help you