San Diego Stalking Defense Attorneys
Stalking charges can blindside an individual. You may have assumed that your actions were innocent or that it is a misunderstanding, but these charges are taken very seriously in California. The prosecution will not care for any excuses, and a conviction may significantly impact your life. Whether or not you knew your accuser intimately, you need to contact an attorney immediately to begin preparing a strong defense.
Not just any public defender can successfully handle a stalking case. You will need an attorney who can thoroughly investigate the charges against you, skillfully negotiate with the district attorney, analyze all the evidence in your case, and craft a strong defense before a jury. But if you work with the San Diego stalking defense attorney at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, you can trust that your case is in the best hands. Our founding attorney is a former LAPD investigator with more than 30 years of experience getting criminal charges reduced or dismissed for numerous clients. If you have been charged with stalking, pick up the phone and call jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys at (760) 630-2000 to schedule a free, private appointment to discuss your case.
California’s stalking laws are defined under California Penal Code Section 646.9, which refers to stalking as “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly” following, harassing, or intimidating an individual – or an individual’s family – or making a “credible threat” against the victim with the intent of scaring them or making them fear for his or her life.
Based on this law, the prosecution must prove that you:
- Acted willfully and maliciously;
- Followed the victim multiple times or made a credible threat against them; and
- Intended to scare them.
Depending on the evidence against you and the nature of the case, a skilled attorney can go point by point through the prosecution’s argument to dismantle the charges. Because this is an intent crime, your attorney may be able to discredit the case against you by showing that there was no intent to harm or scare the victim and that your actions were the result of a misunderstanding.
Fear is also a complex matter in these cases, as it largely depends on how the alleged victim feels. The courts will have to determine whether or not those fears are reasonable. In turn, your attorney can raise doubts about these fears and argue that since you did not intend to intimidate or scare the victim, you cannot be convicted.
A district attorney can pursue a stalking charge against an individual for any repeat actions that are designed to intimidate or scare a victim. These actions are typically referred to as “harassment,” which, based on California penal codes, can mean “knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, torments, or terrorizes the person, and that serves no legitimate purpose.”
Based on this concept, stalking can include:
- Following an individual to work or to their home
- Email, texting, or calling an individual to intimidate them
- Messaging an individual over social media, message boards, or video chats for online streams, such as Twitch or YouTube
- Leaving threatening messages at someone’s home or work
- Threatening an individual’s family, spouse, or friends
Cyberstalking is a relatively new concept for the courts, as many cases now involve social media, hacking, or online surveillance. Investigators can potentially confiscate your cell phone records, personal computers, and browser history to determine if the charges are legitimate or not, potentially invading your privacy.
It is important to note that any of the above actions must have occurred multiple times. Sending a single text message or walking down the same street as an ex-partner one time cannot lead to a stalking charge.
The legal implications you may be facing for stalking charges can be severe. Penalties will depend upon whether you have a prior criminal record and the severity of the offense, which can include how long the alleged stalking occurred, if there were credible threats, and any additional charges against you, such as assault and battery.
In the state of California, the crime of stalking is charged as a wobbler, meaning you can face either misdemeanor or felony charges if convicted. If this is your first stalking offense and you do not have a criminal record, this crime will likely be charged as a misdemeanor, which can lead to:
- A maximum of one year in a county jail
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Informal probation
- Possible restraining order
However, if you have previously been convicted of stalking or violated a restraining order, it is considered a felony offense, which can lead to:
- Up to two, three, or five years in a California state prison
- A fine of up to $1,000
- Informal probation
- Possible restraining order extension
If violence was involved in your case, then you may be charged with aggravated stalking, which is a felony offense that comes with a minimum sentence of one year in jail. It is also possible for a stalking charge to lead to you being placed on the sex offender registry.
A stalking charge, while intimidating, can be beaten with the right defense. The burden of proof is on the district attorney, meaning your defense lawyer can comb through the evidence, testimonies, and police reports to find weaknesses in the prosecution’s argument. Typically, in stalking cases, your lawyer may defend you by proving that:
- Your actions were not committed maliciously or willfully
- Your actions do not meet the definition of harassment
- Your actions were protected under the First Amendment
- There was no credible threat
- This is a case of mistaken identity
- The police violated your rights during an investigation or arrest
- The police committed some other form of misconduct
If you have been arrested, your first step should be to contact a skilled and experienced lawyer as soon as possible. You will want to give him as much time as possible to prepare your defense and begin reviewing your case.
Hiring your attorney could be one of the most important decisions you make. Don't just rely on a word of mouth referral or hire someone you know because of the minimal cost. The research you do in hiring your attorney could be the difference between a conviction that may follow you for the rest of your life and being acquitted or having the charges dropped before trial.
At jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys, we are leaders in our field of criminal law defense. As a board-certified criminal law specialist, Attorney James N. Dicks is widely unsurpassed in his knowledge, expertise, and skill in dealing with all criminal matters. He has more than 30 years of criminal law experience and has handled hundreds of criminal trials.
Call us now at (760) 630-2000 or submit a case evaluation online to schedule a free, confidential appointment where we can answer all your questions and begin preparing your defense with a San Diego criminal defense lawyer.
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