Can You Be Convicted of Stalking if You Never Made a Threat? (PC 646.9)
According to California Penal Code Section 646.9(a), any person who “follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat” to that person is guilty of the crime of stalking. A “credible threat” is defined as a verbal or written threat, or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct made with the intent to place the targeted person in reasonable fear for his or her safety.
The term “implied by a pattern of conduct” is where the law is open to interpretation. What actions could imply a threat? This recently came into question in a stalking case that involved no overt threat.
Man Convicted of Stalking without Making Overt Threat
The defendant in the case, a 26-year-old male, met a 16-year-old girl at a public library and assisted her with her homework. The two continued this type of contact until the girl turned 18 years old. At this time, the man pursued a romantic relationship with the girl, but she departed for college and ignored the man’s calls and messages.
Despite her unwillingness to communicate with him, the defendant continued to try to contact the girl. Since his messages went ignored, he sent packages to her mother and sent the girl a birthday card that included a picture of her face. He wrote a blog focused on her. Finally, the girl reached out to the defendant through Facebook and asked him to stop communicating with her. He ignored this request and proceeded to message her on Facebook.
The defendant was convicted of stalking under PC 646.9.
Can Romantic Pursuits Be Stalking without a Threat?
Arguing that he did not make the threat required to convict him of stalking under PC 646.9, the man appealed his conviction. Hearing the appeal, the court had to consider whether repetitive pursuits of a romantic relationship can represent a credible threat to support a stalking conviction.
Obviously, the defendant in this case did not make any overt verbal or written threats against the alleged victim. However, the court ruled that the man’s prolonged obsession with the alleged victim constituted a “course of conduct in which he engaged in a credible threat.”
The court reasoned that this behavior was enough to imply a threat by a pattern of conduct made with the intent to place the targeted person in reasonable fear for his or her safety. The stalking conviction was affirmed.
Consequences of Stalking
Stalking is a serious crime in California with harsh consequences. It is a wobbler offense, meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If charged as a misdemeanor, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a fine of up to $1,000. If you are charged with felony stalking, you could be sentenced to up to three years in county jail as a well as fined up to $1,000.
These harsh consequences are why you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately if you are accused of stalking.
Call the Stalking Lawyers at Wallin & Klarich
If you are accused of stalking in California, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal attorneys have been successfully defending our clients facing stalking charges for over 40 years. We’ve helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.
With offices located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance and Sherman Oaks, our stalking lawyers are available to help you no matter where you work or live.
Call our offices today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will be there when you call.