Stalking is a serious crime that carries the possibility of prison time. A second or subsequent conviction carries a mandatory minimum two-year jail term.Elements of Stalking
In order to convict a defendant of stalking, the Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The defendant participated in a pattern of conduct over time during which at least three incidents involved the alleged victim;
- A reasonable person would have suffered substantial emotional distress by the defendant’s conduct;
- The alleged victim did become seriously annoyed or alarmed;
- The defendant’s conduct was malicious and willful; and
- The defendant threatened the alleged victim and intended to place him or her in imminent fear of bodily injury or death.
Stalking cases can be defended in a variety of ways.
- Lack of Intent - The Commonwealth must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant willfully and maliciously engaged in a knowing pattern of conduct or series of acts. If the defendant’s conduct was not willful and malicious, he or she cannot be convicted of stalking.
- Reasonableness of Victim’s “Serious alarm” - The Commonwealth needs to prove that the alleged victim was seriously alarmed or annoyed by the defendant’s conduct and that a reasonable person in the alleged victim’s position would suffer substantial emotional distress. Therefore, the Commonwealth cannot prove its case by simply having an over-sensitive alleged victim. It must prove that a reasonable person would suffer serious emotional distress by the defendant’s alleged conduct.
- Alleged Victim’s Criminal Record -If the alleged victim has a criminal record or a history of violence, Attorney Spring will attempt to present this information to the jury. Criminal convictions are generally admissible within a certain time frame (convictions for misdemeanors within the last five years are admissible; convictions for felonies within the last 10 years are admissible). History of violence evidence (also called “prior bad act” evidence) is generally admissible to impeach the alleged victim. Attorney Spring has extensive experience litigating these types of issues.
- Bias - In most stalking cases that go to trial, there is bad blood between the defendant and the alleged victim. The alleged victim ordinarily wants to see the defendant convicted and punished. The alleged victim’s desire for revenge will be fully exposed on cross-examination.
Stalking cases are emotionally charged because they typically involve long-standing grievances between the parties. Most cases result from failed romantic relationships, and the allegations are therefore usually ugly and the alleged victims are ordinarily very invested in the case. Therefore, most stalking cases go to trial. In addition to the serious penalties that follow convictions for stalking, there are enhanced penalties if the defendant stalked the victim in violation of a restraining order.
Attorney Spring prosecuted stalking cases when he served as an assistant district attorney early in his career, and he has defended clients charged with stalking since founding Spring & Spring. He has the knowledge and experience to aggressively defend you if you have been charged with stalking. Contact Attorney Chris Spring today to arrange a free consultation.