Los Angeles Stalking in Domestic Violence Cases

Stalking in Domestic Violence Cases

Courts and legislators have recognized that domestic violence can include many different types of criminal offenses. While the original domestic violence statutes were intended to criminalize individual acts of violence against a spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, cohabitant or co-parent, new laws have been enacted to cover situations involving persistent patterns of harassment aimed at another. Under California Penal Code Section 646.9 PC, stalking is a crime that can result in a felony conviction and substantial prison time.

The Elements of Stalking

In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of stalking, the prosecution must be able to establish that the defendant intentionally and maliciously harassed or followed another person and that the defendant made a credible threat with the intent to invoke fear in the victim. If there was a protective order, the prosecution must show that there was a valid court order prohibiting the defendant from engaging in this type of activity when the conduct occurred.

Harassment is defined broadly under the law, and a course of conduct can involve two or more acts that occur over a period of time, however short.

Stalking and Domestic Violence

In many cases, accusations of stalking may be investigated and charged as domestic violence crimes. Many stalking incidents occur after a break-up when one party continues to contact or harass the other party, despite being told not to. Simply contacting a person is not illegal (unless there is an active protective order), however when the contact becomes too persistent and involves threats, the individual engaging in the unwanted contact could be charged with stalking. Alternatively, the individual can be charged with making harassing or annoying phone calls in violation of California Penal Code Section 653(m) PC. This is a misdemeanor level offense that prosecutors or law enforcement may consider in lieu of stalking charges.

When a person is the victim of stalking, the police will often encourage him or her to obtain a domestic violence restraining order. If granted, this would prohibit the stalking suspect from engaging in any future contact, direct or indirect, with the protected person. If the suspect violates the protective order, he or she can be charged criminally with stalking as well as violating a domestic restraining order pursuant to California Penal Code Section 273.6 PC.

Penalties for Stalking

Stalking is considered a “wobbler” offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. When making a filing decision, prosecutors will consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history, the extent of the stalking and whether or not there was violence involved. If the defendant has a prior stalking conviction or if he or she violated a protective order, the stalking charge is automatically a felony. If charged with stalking as a felony, the defendant faces up to five years in prison.

If charged with stalking as a misdemeanor, the defendant can be sentenced to serve up to a year in jail in addition to numerous terms and conditions of probation.

If the defendant’s stalking offense was committed in connection with a sexual compulsion or for sexual gratification, the defendant may be subject to lifetime sex offender registration under California Penal Code Section 290 PC.

If you or have been arrested for stalking or are under investigation for this offense, it is crucial that you meet with an attorney experienced in defending these types of cases as soon as possible. As a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience, Michael Kraut understands how to effectively defend clients who are charged with stalking or other domestic violence related crimes. In many cases, Mr. Kraut is able to intervene before charges are filed in order to have charges significantly reduced or even rejected.

For more information about domestic violence and stalking, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Michael Kraut at the Kraut Criminal & DUI Lawyers located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.

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