Along with domestic violence, stalking is a crime that was not taken very seriously until relatively recently in the United States. Victims were often thought to be exaggerating the problem or labeled “attention seekers”. Fortunately, law makers across the country, including in the state of Florida, finally began to see stalking as a serious, potentially deadly crime. Whether you are a victim of stalking or have been accused of stalking in Clearwater, Florida, it is essential to understand the Florida stalking laws and potential penalties for a stalking conviction.
In the state of Florida, the criminal offense of stalking is defined as follows:
“A person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person commits the offense of stalking.” 784.048(2)
To fully understand the definition of stalking you need to know how some other important terms are defined such as “harasses” and “cyberstalks”.
· Harrasses – means to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.
· Cyberstalks — means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication, directed at a specific person, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose.
Stalking is charged as a first degree misdemeanor absent aggravating factors and is punishable by up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. Stalking is charged as a third-degree felony and is punishable by up to five years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine if any of the following aggravating circumstances are present:
· The accused made a credible threat during the alleged stalking behavior.
· The accused also violated an injunction or other court order requiring the accused to stay away from the alleged victim.
· The alleged victim is under 16 years of age.
If you believe that you are the victim of stalking you have the legal right to request an injunction which, if granted, will order the alleged stalker to refrain from contacting you or harassing you. Although an attorney is not required to request an injunction it is in your best interest to consult a Florida criminal defense attorney to ensure that you are doing everything possible to protect yourself and your loved ones.
If you have been accused of stalking you must take the accusations seriously. Not only do you face a potential term of incarceration if convicted, a conviction for stalking could also adversely affect your rights to custody or visitation with minor children. Contact a Florida criminal defense attorney immediately if you face stalking charges to ensure that your rights as an accused are protected. Contact Powers Sellers & Finkelstein PLC by calling 727-531-2926 today to schedule your appointment.