Stalking is a felony that carries a potential prison sentence. A subsequent conviction results in a mandatory minimum two-year jail term.
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.
A charge of stalking may be defended in various 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 - Attorney Spring will file a motion for the judge to order production of the alleged victim's criminal record. If the alleged victim has been found guilty of crimes, Massachusetts law sometimes allows the defense to introduce certified copies of the alleged victim's convictions at trial. If the alleged victim engaged in his or her own harassing behavior toward the defendant, Attorney Spring will seek to admit such evidence at trial.
- Bias - Any person who claims to be the victim of a stalking is going to hate the defendant. The alleged victim will want the defendant to go to prison. Attorney Spring will point out to the jury that the alleged victim is biased against the defendant, and such bias may have led to the alleged victim offering false testimony.
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.