Aggravated Stalking

Aggravated stalking is a felony charge that carries all of the same consequences and penalties as a regular felony offense. An aggravated stalking statute begins with a basic stalking allegation, but the court must prove that the behavior is a pattern of conduct and not just a single incident. If a person is found guilty of aggravated stalking, they can spend up to ten years in prison, will have a restraining order against them, and may be required to undergo a psychological evaluation.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Aggravated stalking is a felony charge that can carry all of the same consequences and penalty as a regular felony offense. Some examples of stalking include following someone, driving by someone’s property, work, or school, secretly taking images or videos of someone, sending unwanted texts, emails, letters, or making explicit threats to an individual by telephone. A person will be convicted of aggravated stalking when he or she follows, places under surveillance, or makes unconsented contact with another for the purpose of harassment or other intimidating behavior.

Despite constitutional challenges, a majority of states have some type of stalking statute and some also have aggravated stalking statutes. Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nevada, Missouri, Vermont, New Mexico, and Tennessee are some of the states which have provisions against aggravated stalking.

What are aggravating circumstances?

An aggravated stalking statute begins with a basic stalking allegation. Stalking usually requires some proof that a person repeatedly followed, harassed, or communicated with a victim in a way that caused the victim substantial emotional distress. Aggravated stalking requires this same stalking proof plus some other aggravating act or circumstance. Most include a violation of no-contact orders as an aggravating circumstance.

A no-contact with victim order could be included in a protective order, permanent restraining order, temporary restraining order, permanent injunction, preliminary injunction, bond condition, or any other court-imposed prohibition of conduct. For example, if a person physically abused his girlfriend and the court allowed him to post bond subject to a condition that he have no contact with the victim, then the person could be charged with aggravated stalking if he tried to contact the victim without consent after his release.

Some states set out multiple aggravating circumstances. For example, Florida also aggravates stalking charges if a victim is younger than sixteen years of age or if the defendant makes a credible threat of bodily injury directed towards the victim. When stalking is related to unlawful contact with a child under the age of 16, it is a third-degree felony punishable by five years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine. Other states require some activity, not just words, that adds to the stalking component. Illinois authorizes aggravated stalking charges if the person causes harm to or constrains the victim. Because stalking and aggravated stalking statutes are defined so broadly, the evidence required and the defenses to stalking charges tend to be challenging for prosecutors and defendants. The aggravated stalking offense could be alleged if the unlawful contact happens after a domestic violence protective order or injunction is ordered. The court must be able to prove a protective order was issued, the person knew it was issued and s/he voluntarily made an injunction violation

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What are the aggravating stalking defenses?

Generally, the state must show pattern of conduct. A single incident of aggressive, annoying, or creepy behavior is not enough to support a stalking charge. Because the state is required to show repeated, committed actions, they are often permitted to introduce other things a defendant has done to the victim. This is somewhat different than other criminal cases where evidence is limited to the events that happened on a particular day.

Stalking is one of the few charges, which by design, authorizes and requires the admission of other bad acts. The entire history between the parties is admissible to show intent and to verify the reasonable fear experienced by the victim. This is an incredibly frustrating charge to defend because the defendant must defend a series of events, rather than one specific event on one specific day.

Despite this frustration, some defensive options are available in the reverse. When the state introduces a defendant’s history, a defendant can also introduce a history of a victim’s reactions to rebut the credible threat element required to support a conviction for stalking. Essentially, a defendant makes the argument that even though a victim had the opportunity to leave or avoid the defendant, the woman continued to have contact with the defendant, thereby demonstrating a lack of fear for her life.

Even though a small number of states have formal aggravated stalking statutes, other states have statutes that are comparable or punish the same type of conduct as a felony. For example, the conduct of constraint for an aggravated stalking charge in Illinois could also be considered unlawful restraint or kidnapping in other states. Regardless of how stalking conduct is labeled, aggravated stalking charges can result in serious felony consequences.

What’s the aggravated stalking Punishment?

Simple stalking charges are usually classified as misdemeanor offenses but aggravated stalking is classified as a felony. The range of punishment can range from two to ten years in prison. Because the offense is a felony, aggravated stalking can be enhanced under repeat felony offender statutes. Many of these states also classify aggravated stalking as an offense against the family or household. This means that an aggravated stalking conviction could be used later to enhance a different type of assault family violence charge from a misdemeanor offense to a felony-level offense because of violent family history.

If a person is placed on probation for aggravated stalking, then the s/he could be required to undergo a psychological evaluation, participate in counseling, and refrain from any future contact with the victim. Essentially a protective order is built into the terms and conditions of the probation order. If a person is accused of aggravated stalking via cyberstalking, then courts could also place restrictions on a defendant’s use of electronic equipment or access to computers. To qualify as a cyberstalker, the defendant must direct the content to a specific person. For example, it cannot be directed at a group of people, a race, or a team.

If you’ve been wrongly accused of this criminal charge, it is important to have a criminal defense attorney with extensive experience who is well equipped to help you with your case and all the stress. An attorney can help you get your life back on track after allegations of stalking and find the best defense for fighting the charges. An allegation can lead to a criminal charge for a serious felony offense for making a credible threat or stalking after an injunction is entered.

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