Stalking is defined as an assault under Pennsylvania law. It is prosecuted as a first-degree misdemeanor with heightened consequences for subsequent offenses. Those who have been charged with stalking are often taken by surprise by the assertion that their conduct is criminal in nature — what qualifies as stalking under the law may appear to be normal or otherwise justified behavior to the defendant.
Stalking may be defined as a misdemeanor, but conviction can have significant and permanent consequences for the various personal, social, and career spheres of your life. Given the potential damage wrought by a conviction, we encourage those who have been charged with stalking to get in touch with a qualified Pittsburgh stalking defense lawyer here at McKinney Law as soon as possible. We are tenacious advocates and will work tirelessly to assist you throughout the litigation process.
Elements of a Stalking Charge
Stalking is defined in of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes. A person will be found guilty of stalking if they have:
- engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly committed acts towards another person under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury, or to cause substantial emotional distress to another person; or
- engaged in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicated to another person under circumstances which demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person.
Stalking is prosecuted as a first-degree misdemeanor for the first offense, but will be prosecuted as a third-degree felony for subsequent offenses. First-degree misdemeanors in Pennsylvania carry penalties of up to five years imprisonment and up to $10,000 in fines, while third-degree felonies carry penalties of up to seven years imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines.
Victim Fabricated the Claim
You cannot be held liable if you did not actually commit the stalking offense at issue, In fact, the victim may be criminally liable for fabrication if they are found to have knowingly misrepresented or fabricated their assertions, the evidence, or the identity of the stalker.
Fear of Bodily Injury or Emotional Distress Was Unreasonable
In some cases, the victim may have felt true fear of bodily injury (or emotional distress), but that fear may not have been reasonable given the circumstances. You cannot be held liable for instilling fear of bodily injury when your acts are not reasonably connected to such fear. For example, if your neighbor sees you riding bikes and playing on the street with your children (near their house), he or she may feel fearful for their life, but — unless the circumstances objectively support that fear — they cannot hold you liable for stalking.
Lack of Intent
Stalking requires intent to cause fear of bodily harm or emotional distress. You cannot be held liable for stalking if you mistakenly engaged in actions that caused another individual to feel fear of bodily harm or emotional distress — for example, if you trip and fall near the victim suddenly, they might jump out of the way in fright, but it cannot be said to have been an intentional act.
Contact McKinney Law to Speak to an Experienced Pittsburgh Stalking Defense Lawyer
Here at McKinney Law, we have experience representing a range of criminal defendants in various prosecutions, including those that involve stalking charges. We are aggressive and tenacious advocates for our clients, and — unlike many other defense firms — we are willing to take cases all of the way to trial. This approach to litigation affords us substantial leverage when negotiating with prosecutors, helping us to secure favorable plea deals early on in the litigation process.
We believe that effective criminal defense demands a close and transparent working relationship with the client, and to that end, we make ourselves available for inquiries and consultations when necessary. No matter the time, we will have a response for any question or concern you may have within just 24 hours. Further, we are open to scheduling after-hours consultations if your schedule does not permit you to meet during regular business hours.
Call (412) 520-3301 to speak to an experienced Pittsburgh stalking defense lawyer at McKinney Law today. The initial consultation is free.