Penal Code 646.9 PC | Stalking

Penal Code 646.9 PC | Stalking

Stalking can be a scary and dangerous crime. It’s when someone repeatedly harasses or threatens you, causing you to fear for your safety. I’m gonna break down California’s stalking law – Penal Code 646.9 PC – so you understand your rights and what defenses you have if falsely accused.

What is Stalking Under Penal Code 646.9 PC?

The legal definition of stalking is when someone purposefully, and repeatedly harasses or threatens you – and this harassment causes you to fear for your safety or the safety of your immediate family.

Let’s break that down into the 2 elements that make up the crime of stalking:

  1. The stalker must engage in a pattern of conduct that harasses or threatens you
  2. That pattern of conduct must cause you to fear for your safety or your family’s safety

What’s Considered a “Pattern of Conduct”?

A pattern of conduct means the stalker does 2 or more acts that harass or threaten you. These acts can include:

  • Following or stalking you
  • Making harassing phone calls to you
  • Sending threatening emails or text messages
  • Vandalizing your property
  • Physically or verbally threatening you
  • Posting personal information or photos of you online

The stalker has to do at least 2 of these acts – 1 act on its own doesn’t count as a pattern. But if they engage in 2 or more of these behaviors repeatedly, that’s considered stalking under Penal Code 646.9 PC.

You Must Reasonably Fear for Your Safety

Not only does the stalker have to harass or threaten you, but their behavior also has to make you fear for your own safety or your family’s safety. This fear has to be reasonable – meaning any reasonable person in your shoes would also be afraid based on the stalker’s conduct.

For example, if the stalker sends you threatening messages saying they’re going to hurt you, any reasonable person would fear for their safety in that situation.

Penalties for Stalking Under California Law

Stalking is a wobbler offense in California, meaning it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the circumstances.

Misdemeanor stalking is punishable by:

  • Up to 1 year in county jail
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • Misdemeanor probation

Felony stalking is punishable by:

  • 16 months, 2 years or 3 years in state prison
  • A fine up to $10,000
  • Felony probation

Prosecutors are more likely to charge felony stalking if:

  • You suffered physical injury because of the stalking
  • The stalker violated a restraining order
  • The stalker has prior stalking convictions on their record
  • The stalker used a deadly weapon while stalking you

How Can I Defend Against False Stalking Charges?

Being wrongfully accused of stalking can make you feel powerless. But don’t worry – California law gives you strong defenses to fight false allegations and restore your reputation.

Here are 3 of the most effective legal defenses against Penal Code 646.9 PC charges:

  1. You didn’t intend to stalk or harass the accuser
  2. Your conduct wouldn’t cause a reasonable person to fear injury
  3. You have a legitimate purpose for contacting the accuser

You Didn’t Intend to Stalk or Harass

Lack of intent or “wrongful intent” is a common stalking defense. Here, you argue the questionable conduct wasn’t meant to harass or threaten the accuser. For example, maybe you drive by the accuser’s house everyday simply because it’s on your normal commute to work. Even if this makes them fearful, you aren’t intending to stalk them and had no idea it caused distress.

No Reasonable Fear of Harm

Another defense is that your actions wouldn’t cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death. If the accuser is exaggerating their fear or being unreasonable, you aren’t guilty of stalking. Let’s say you send the accuser benign text messages like “I miss you” or “Can we talk?” While annoying, a reasonable person wouldn’t feel physically threatened by these texts. So there’s no stalking.

Legitimate Purpose

You also have a defense if there’s a legitimate reason for contacting the accuser. For example, you may need to communicate with them because of:

  • An ongoing court case
  • Shared business dealings
  • Custody arrangements

As long as the contact serves a valid purpose and you aren’t threatening the accuser, it’s not considered stalking under Penal Code 646.9.

Restraining Orders Can Help Stalking Victims

Stalking can make you feel violated and unsafe. A restraining order might help restore your peace of mind.

California has 2 types of restraining orders:

  • Civil harassment restraining order – Protects against stalking by anyone, including people you aren’t related to or dating
  • Domestic violence restraining order – Protects against stalking by a spouse, ex-spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, or immediate family member

Violating a restraining order is a crime. It also strengthens any stalking charges against the stalker.

To get a restraining order, you need to show:

  • Reasonable proof of harassment or stalking
  • The harassment would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress

A judge can issue an emergency protective order if there’s immediate danger of violence. This orders the stalker to stay away from you right away while your case gets a full hearing.

You Have the Right to Feel Safe from Stalkers

Being stalked can make you feel like a victim – but you have power too! Use your rights under Penal Code 646.9 PC to take legal action against your stalker. And if falsely accused, fight back with the truth on your side.

You deserve to feel safe and live without fear. Don’t let a stalker bully or intimidate you. Take back control of your life – and know you have support and legal defenses.


California Penal Code 646.9 PC – California Legislative Information

Penal Code 646.9 PC – California “Stalking” Laws – Shouse California Law Group

How Can I Stop Someone From Stalking Me? – California Courts Restraining Orders