Stalking Laws in California - Penal Code 646.9 PC
It is against the law to commit domestic violence whether it is physical, emotional or sexual by hurting, intimidating, threatening, vandalizing, harassing or stalking another.
Many of these actions lead to serious injuries or deaths and open the door to other types of criminal charges like trespassing, assault, criminal threats, computer crimes, and more. If you are facing serious stalking charges or have a restraining order against you, it is important to have legal advice at each step.
Domestic violence and stalking are significant crimes and an accused can benefit from the knowledge and experience of a Los Angeles criminal defense firm. At Cron, Israels & Stark we prominent criminal defense attorneys and handle cases from misdemeanors to major felonies or high profile cases.
We are dedicated to helping our clients from the time of arrest, at arraignment, hearings and each step throughout the legal process. Our goal is to help our clients achieve the best possible case outcome, often with the results of lessened charges or case dismissal.
Elements and Proof of Stalking
Stalking crimes under California Penal Code 646.9 PC are misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances of the location, whether it is a violation of a restraining order, and other factors. In the current age of global use of the internet and electronic devices, stalking crimes are more common.
Stalking crimes are mostly associated with domestic relationship situations, but they are not limited to that alone. Certain elements necessary in order to prove an actual commission of a stalking crime as described in California Penal Code Section 646.9 and those include:
- Offender willfully, maliciously and repeatedly harassed or followed the victim
- Offender made a credible threat against the victim. These made in writing, verbally, via an electronic device, or other means.
- The credible threats were made with the intention of placing the victim in reasonable fear for his/her or immediate family's safety
Examples of stalking can include following the victim, sending unwanted communications like texts, emails, phone calls or leaving phone messages, or sending unwanted gifts. Gathering excessive information about the victim can also be a stalking offense.
There must be some sort of action to annoy, alarm, terrorize, intimidate, torment or threat to the victim's security. To establish purpose there must be a repetition of at least two or more series of acts against the victim.
Cyberstalking is a relative new crime and has captured the attention of governmental agencies intent on prosecuting stalking and computer crimes.
Examples of cyberstalking can include posting false information about the victim, sending obscene or threatening emails to the victim or family members, ordering merchandise or services in another's name, or posting serious threats with the intent of getting others to engage in criminal activity.
A related crime for stalking is making annoying phone calls described under California Penal Code Section 653m. This statute makes it a crime to make repeated or harassing phone calls, or phone calls that use obscene or threatening language. Many PC 653m criminal cases are related to domestic violence.
Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony Stalking
Stalking crimes are prosecuted as misdemeanor or felony cases and the penalties can include:
- Misdemeanor: Maximum 1 year county jail; $1,000 fine
- Felony: Maximum 5 years state prison; $1,000 fine
- Felony – Interstate Stalking: Maximum 5 years federal prison; significant fines
Determining factors in a misdemeanor or felony case can involve the criminal history of the defendant and other crimes committing along with the stalking. Many victims obtain restraining orders against their alleged stalkers.
Restraining and Protection Orders
A stalking victim can obtain an order for protection against the stalker. There are different kinds of protection orders depending on the situation. A victim of spousal abuse can obtain an Emergency Protection Order.
These orders can be a Domestic Violence Temporary Restraining Order or a Criminal Protective as issued by the court. The stalker cannot come within 100 yards of the work, home or school of the victim.
It restricts direct or indirect contact with the protected individual and that includes any attempt to annoy, harass, stalk, assault or otherwise disturb the peace of the victim. Protective Orders are serious and a contempt of court violation can mean an additional offense and possible time in prison.