As with sexual assault crimes, consent plays a big role in determining a stalking crime. Stalking generally refers to unwanted interactions where one person continues to attempt discussion, visitation, or viewing with another person against that person’s will and lacks their consent. When consent had been given by all the people involved, interactions could be viewed as normal social engagements in the right context.
But since a stalking crime lacks consent, any efforts of unwanted interaction that leave one person afraid for their life or experiencing fear, discomfort, and unease can qualify as stalking. If a person has done these actions, they can be charged with a stalking crime.
The state of Florida defines stalking in Statute 784.04, which includes stalking definitions and penalties. Common terms used in state stalking cases include:
Refers to a person purposely engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person to causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose. The actions are repeated, excessive, and somewhat relentless.
• Course of conduct
Refers to a pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over any period of time, no matter how short or long, which evidences a continuity of purpose. That continuity of purpose can range from the seemingly benign, such as wanting to engage in conversation to more extreme acts of violence against that person for any reason.
• Credible threat
Any kind of threat, including verbal, nonverbal, or through an action, which causes the targeted person to experience reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of anyone close to them, including friends, family, and business associates. With stalking, the person making the threat may not intend to follow through on the threat but it is a credible threat if the victim(s) has a high level of belief that the stalker is likely to carry out the threat or is capable of carrying out the action.
Stalking can involve empty threats or involve threats coming from a location that prevents such action, like a prison. But it does not matter if the accused stalker never follows through on the threat. What matters is the threat itself.
In the age of computers and social media, stalking is not limited to physical interactions and exchanges. A person can engage in a course of conduct using electronic communication systems, such as e-mail or social media platforms to track and harass the victim. The platforms such as Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, allow a stalker to communicate through words, images, or language to cause substantial emotional distress to their intended target.
Florida law defines penalties from misdemeanors to felonies, with first offenses being labeled as first-degree misdemeanors and working up to third-degree felonies. First-degree misdemeanor convictions can include a $1,000 fine and up to one year in jail, while third-degree felony penalties increase the jail time to a maximum of five years and fines not to exceed $5,000.
In addition to fines and jail time, a person convicted of stalking may be receive with a restraining order which can range from several months to a period of 10 years. Violating the order results in another third-degree felony charge.
If you are accused of the crime of stalking, either in person or by cyberstalking, you need a rigorous defense. Unfortunately you may be accused erroneously by a vindictive person bent on weaponizing this crime against you. It’s imperative to have legal professionals on your side to defend you and ensure your rights.
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