Defendants may find themselves facing stalking charges in St. Petersburg when someone alleges that the defendant repeatedly harassed him or her and caused emotional distress. Stalking is a misdemeanor offense in Florida, although if the defendant made an accompanying threat, the charge is elevated to a felony. If you are facing stalking charges, call Goldman Wetzel to start working on your defense: 727-828-3900.
What constitutes stalking?
In 784.048(2), Florida Statutes defines stalking as when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another.”
There are a lot of behaviors that might constitute stalking.
- Physically following a person
- Showing up to someone’s workplace or home
- Repeatedly making unwanted phone calls or sending unwanted texts
- Leaving notes or gifts
- Social media harassment
In order for the charges to be viable, the behavior must be what the state calls “a course of conduct.” This is defined as “a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.” In other words, one time or random acts do not qualify as stalking. There must be a pattern of unwanted actions performed with malicious intent.
What are the punishments for stalking?
Stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor, which can mean up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If the alleged actions involve threats, it is aggravated stalking. This is a third-degree felony, which can mean up to five years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine. Other charges, such as sex crimes or those related to domestic violence, may accompany stalking charges.
The penalties can be stiff, especially if the charges stem from a miscommunication or if you misjudged a situation. Further, the laws are vague and false allegations and misunderstandings are not uncommon. The Florida Bar Journal states that “the ability of law enforcement to make warrantless arrests for stalking solely on the basis of the victim’s word, despite the absence of corroborating evidence, is distressing.”
What do I do if charged with stalking in St. Petersburg?
If you are facing charges of stalking and/or related crimes, seek counsel from a defense attorney at Goldman Wetzel as soon as possible. There are several viable defenses for charges of this nature; the sooner we can start on your defense, the sooner we can begin gathering supportive evidence.
Contact Goldman Wetzel today at 727-828-3900.