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Exploring Utah’s Sentencing Guidelines for Stalking Offenses

March 29, 2024

Exploring Utah’s Sentencing Guidelines for Stalking Offenses

Stalking is a serious crime that can have devastating effects on victims. In Utah, stalking offenses are taken very seriously and can result in significant criminal penalties. If you or someone you know has been charged with stalking in Utah, it’s important to understand the state’s sentencing guidelines and what you can expect if convicted.

What is Stalking Under Utah Law?

Under Utah Code § 76-5-106.5, stalking is defined as intentionally or knowingly engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or the safety of a third person, or to suffer emotional distress.The course of conduct must involve two or more acts, such as:

  • Following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, or communicating to or about a person
  • Interfering with a person’s property
  • Sending material by any means to the person
  • Entering or remaining on a person’s property

Stalking can also involve using technology to engage in these behaviors, such as using GPS tracking devices, hidden cameras, or spyware.

Penalties for Stalking in Utah

The penalties for stalking in Utah depend on the severity of the offense and the defendant‘s criminal history. Here’s a breakdown of the possible penalties:

Offense Penalties
Class A misdemeanor stalking Up to 364 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500
Third degree felony stalking Up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000
Second degree felony stalking 1-15 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000

Stalking can be charged as a third degree felony if:

  • The defendant has a prior conviction for stalking
  • The stalking violated a stalking injunction, a permanent criminal stalking injunction, or a restraining order
  • The defendant used a dangerous weapon while stalking the victim
  • The defendant was on probation, parole, or release from jail or prison when the stalking occurred

Stalking can be charged as a second degree felony if the defendant used a dangerous weapon and caused serious bodily injury to the victim while stalking them.

Sentencing Guidelines for Stalking in Utah

When sentencing a defendant for stalking, Utah judges must follow the state’s sentencing guidelines, which are set forth in the Utah Sentencing Commission’s Adult Sentencing & Release Guidelines. The guidelines provide a range of recommended sentences based on the severity of the offense and the defendant‘s criminal history.For a class A misdemeanor stalking offense, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 180 days in jail for a defendant with no prior criminal history. For a defendant with a moderate criminal history, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 270 days in jail. And for a defendant with an extensive criminal history, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 365 days in jail.For a third degree felony stalking offense, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 0-5 years in prison for a defendant with no prior criminal history. For a defendant with a moderate criminal history, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 2-5 years in prison. And for a defendant with an extensive criminal history, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 3-5 years in prison.For a second degree felony stalking offense, the guidelines recommend a sentence of 1-15 years in prison, regardless of the defendant‘s criminal history.It’s important to note that these are just guidelines, and judges have the discretion to deviate from them based on the specific facts of the case and any aggravating or mitigating factors.

Aggravating and Mitigating Factors

When sentencing a defendant for stalking, Utah judges can consider various aggravating and mitigating factors that may warrant a harsher or more lenient sentence.Aggravating factors that may justify a harsher sentence include:

  • The defendant has a history of stalking or domestic violence
  • The stalking was particularly severe or prolonged
  • The stalking involved a violation of a protective order
  • The stalking caused significant harm to the victim or their family
  • The defendant showed no remorse for their actions

Mitigating factors that may justify a more lenient sentence include:

  • The defendant has no prior criminal history
  • The defendant took responsibility for their actions and showed genuine remorse
  • The defendant has strong family and community support
  • The defendant has mental health or substance abuse issues that contributed to their behavior
  • The defendant is willing to participate in treatment or counseling

Defenses to Stalking Charges

If you‘ve been charged with stalking in Utah, there may be defenses available to you depending on the specific facts of your case. Some possible defenses include:

  • Lack of intent: To be convicted of stalking, the prosecution must prove that you intentionally or knowingly engaged in the stalking behavior. If you can show that your actions were unintentional or that you didn’t know they would cause fear or distress, you may have a defense.
  • Constitutionally protected activity: If your alleged stalking behavior involved constitutionally protected activity, such as free speech or freedom of association, you may have a defense. For example, if you were engaging in peaceful protest or political activism, that may not constitute stalking.
  • Mistaken identity: If you can show that you were not the person who engaged in the stalking behavior, or that the victim mistakenly identified you, you may have a defense.
  • Lack of evidence: The prosecution must prove every element of the stalking offense beyond a reasonable doubt. If there is insufficient evidence to support the charges, you may be able to get the case dismissed.

It’s important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the evidence against you and advise you on the best defense strategy.

Getting Help from a Utah Criminal Defense Attorney

If you‘ve been charged with stalking in Utah, it’s crucial to seek the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A skilled attorney can:

  • Review the evidence against you and identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case
  • Advise you on the best defense strategy based on the specific facts of your case
  • Negotiate with the prosecution to try to get the charges reduced or dismissed
  • Represent you at trial and present a strong defense on your behalf
  • Advocate for a lenient sentence if you are convicted

At Spodek Law Group, our team of experienced criminal defense attorneys has a track record of success in handling stalking cases in Utah and across the country. We understand the serious consequences of a stalking conviction and will work tirelessly to protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome in your case.Some of our notable stalking cases include:

  • Representing a client accused of stalking Alec Baldwin, which gained nationwide attention from major media outlets like USA Today and the New York Post
  • Defending a juror in the Ghislaine Maxwell trial who was accused of not disclosing relevant information, which could have been grounds for overturning the trial
  • Handling a case covered by the New York Times and other major media outlets involving a Las Vegas client accused of threatening a prominent attorney

No matter how complex or high-profile your stalking case may be, we have the skills and resources to provide the aggressive defense you need.

Lawyers You Can Trust

Todd Spodek

Founding Partner

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RALPH P. FRANCHO, JR

Associate

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JEREMY FEIGENBAUM

Associate Attorney

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ELIZABETH GARVEY

Associate

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CLAIRE BANKS

Associate

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RAJESH BARUA

Of-Counsel

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CHAD LEWIN

Of-Counsel

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