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Stalking laws in the state of California carry the potential for severe consequences. A permanent criminal record, the imposition of a criminal protective order, and even sex offender registration can result from a stalking conviction, all of which can be highly damaging to your future. A San Leandro stalking lawyer may be able to examine the facts of the charges against you and determine what defenses may be viable in your situation.

Whether you are the target of false accusations, mistaken identity, or errors in communication, you may need the assistance of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in defending yourself against stalking charges. Every case is different, and skilled legal counsel can advise you as to the best defense strategy to utilize in your case.

Stalking in San Leandro

Under Cal. Pen. Code § 646.9, individuals who intentionally and repeatedly follow, harass, or credibly threaten others or their family members, to the extent that they reasonably fear for their safety, commit stalking. State code defines “harass” as any intentional course of conduct directed at a specific person that has no valid purpose except to annoy or torment. A course of conduct may be two or more acts that occur over a period, so long as they show a continuity of purpose.

The code further defines a “credible threat” as a threat made with the intention of causing others to be in reasonable fear for their safety, or the safety of their families, and with the apparent ability to carry out the threat. A threat may be verbal, written, sent via an electronic communications device, implied by a pattern of conduct, or a combination of these methods. The definition of “credible threat” does not require that individuals intended to carry out the threat and may apply to persons who currently are incarcerated.

Some common examples of stalking that may lead to criminal charges include:

  • Constantly showing up at a person’s home, place of work, or other location you know they frequent (i.e. school, day care).
  • Routinely sending threatening emails to former intimate partners and making harassing phone calls
  • Repeatedly sending unsolicited notes, text messages, flowers, or other gifts

All these actions arguably could fall within the stalking law in California. As the potential penalties for a stalking conviction can be harsh, individuals should consider the benefits of contacting a stalking lawyer in San Leandro.

What is the Difference Between Harassment and Stalking?

Under California Penal Code Section 646.9 (e), harassment is defined as the knowing and willful conduct that alarms or terrorizes a person and serves no legitimate purpose. This conduct must result in substantial emotional distress on the part of the victim and often is composed of a series of acts over time.

On the other hand, stalking involves someone who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or harasses another person and makes a credible threat with the intent to place that individual in reasonable fear of his or her safety or that of his or her immediately family.

It is not uncommon for someone who is accused of stalking to also be charged with harassment. As both of these offenses are serious, it is important for those accused of these actions to enlist the guidance of a well-practiced criminal attorney.

Penalties for Stalking

Generally, prosecutors may opt to charge stalking as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. A conviction for stalking may result in up to one year of incarceration and a fine of not more than $1,000. Additional penalties may include counseling, implementation of a restraining order protecting the alleged target of the stalking for up to ten years, and informal or summary probation.

The penalties for stalking are greater if individuals commit stalking in violation of a temporary restraining order or other court order prohibiting harassing, threatening, and stalking behaviors against the same party, or have a previous felony stalking conviction. In these situations, accused individuals may face up to five years of incarceration, depending on the situation.

A judge may also order a convicted stalker to register as a sex offender if the stalking involved an element of sexual compulsion or sexual gratification. Due to the severity of these potential sanctions and the impact that they can have on the futures of individuals, getting the legal advice of a stalking attorney in San Leandro may be wise.

Why Might Someone Take a Plea Deal?

Choosing to accept a plea deal for a stalking offense in San Leandro depends heavily on whether the individual is being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. Misdemeanor charges include probation, fines, and fees, but the person cannot be in custody for more than a year and he or she will also be sentenced to a county jail term. These terms can be served on weekends, through an electronic home detention program, or through a sheriff’s work project program.

On the other hand, if a person is charged with a felony, he or she could be facing five years in state prison, along with parole supervision, fines, and other terms and conditions including but not limited to stay away orders, search and seizure clauses, and weapons relinquishment. If someone is charged with a misdemeanor or felony stalking offense, a San Leandro attorney would discuss the pros and cons of a plea with their client and determine if a plea is in their best interest based on the evidence and the client’s goals.

Another determining factor in whether someone may accept a plea deal depends on how provable the case is. This depends on how egregious the alleged conduct was, the credibility of the complaining witness, and the evidence available. While it is ultimately up to the defendant whether to accept a deal, he or she should speak with a seasoned attorney before making a decision.

Look to a San Leandro Stalking Attorney for Help

A wide range of behaviors can lead to stalking charges. What may seem like innocent behavior from one perspective could constitute stalking from another perspective. Seeking the help of a San Leandro stalking lawyer may allow you to protect your rights and learn how best to handle the charges against you.

Stalking is a criminal offense that California courts can punish harshly. To avoid or minimize some of the potential consequences, do not hesitate to contact legal counsel for advice.

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