When is Stalking Considered a Crime? (PC 646.9)
“Facebook stalking.” “Internet stalking.” People often throw around the word “stalking” when referencing someone who is “checking in” on another person without that person’s knowledge. However, the legal definition of stalking is much more specific than the way you may be used to hearing the term. Let’s clarify how California law defines the crime of stalking.
California Stalking Laws (PC 646.9)
Under California Penal Code Section 646.9, any person who willfully, maliciously and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.
In order to convict you of this crime, the prosecution must prove all of the following elements:
- You willfully and maliciously harassed or repeatedly followed a person, and
- You made a credible threat against that person with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his/her safety or the safety of his/her immediate family
One of the most important aspects of the law’s language is the term “credible threat.” A “credible threat” is a verbal or written threat – delivered in person, in writing or through electronic communication – that you have the means to carry out your threat. You do not actually have to carry out the threat in order to be convicted, but you must have the ability to carry out the threat.
It is also important to understand the words “harassment” and “malicious” in terms of this law. “Harassment” is a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person for the purpose of seriously alarming, annoying, tormenting or terrorizing that person.
A “malicious act” is a wrongful act done with the intention of disturbing, annoying or injuring another person in an unlawful way.
Punishment for Stalking
Stalking is a “wobbler” offense in California, meaning you could be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depending upon the circumstances of your case.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor stalking, you face up to 364 days in county jail and a $1,000 fine. Felony stalking is punishable by 16 months, 2 or 3 years in jail. If the court finds that you committed felony stalking for your own sexual gratification, you could also be required to register as a sex offender for the rest of your life pursuant to California Penal Code Section 290.
Contact the Stalking Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today
Stalking is a serious crime in California. You face severe consequences if you are convicted of this crime. That is why you should not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer immediately if you are accused of stalking. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled and knowledgeable criminal attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing stalking charges for more than 40 years. Let us help you now.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, West Covina, Torrance, Los Angeles and San Diego, you can find a dedicated Wallin & Klarich stalking attorney available near you no matter where you are located.
Call us now at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.