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Last Updated on: 3rd November 2023, 07:11 pm
Stalking Charges in Florida: Penalties, Restraining Orders and Criminal Defense
Being charged with stalking in Florida can be scary and confusing. But with the right information and legal help, you can get through it. This article will explain Florida stalking laws, penalties, restraining orders, and criminal defense strategies in an easy-to-understand way.
What is Stalking in Florida?
Florida law defines stalking as “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person.”
Some examples of stalking include:
- Repeatedly calling, emailing, texting someone who has asked you to stop
- Showing up uninvited at someone’s home, work, or school
- Tracking someone using GPS or spyware
- Threatening someone or their loved ones
- Vandalizing someone’s property
- Sending unwanted gifts
Stalking causes the victim substantial emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose.
Penalties for Stalking in Florida
A first stalking offense is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida.
This can lead to:
- Up to 1 year in jail
- Up to 1 year probation
- Up to $1,000 fine
- 10-year restraining order
Stalking penalties increase for repeat offenses or if there are aggravating factors (explained more below).
Restraining Orders for Stalking Victims
If convicted of stalking, the court will likely issue a restraining order prohibiting any contact with the victim for up to 10 years.
Victims can also petition the court for an injunction against stalking, even before criminal charges are filed. This civil restraining order can order the stalker to have no contact and stay away from the victim.
Aggravated Stalking Charges in Florida
There are four types of aggravated stalking charges in Florida:
1. Stalking with Credible Threat
This applies when the stalker threatens the victim, causing reasonable fear of death or physical harm. Threats can be verbal, written, or implied by conduct.
2. Stalking a Child Under 16
This applies when the victim is under 16 years old. The stalking behavior does not need to include threats.
3. Stalking After Injunction
This applies when the stalker has been prohibited from contact, such as through a restraining order.
4. Stalking a Victim of Certain Sex Crimes
This applies when the stalker was previously convicted of certain sex crimes (like sexual battery) against the victim.Penalties for aggravated stalking are more severe. It is a third-degree felony with up to 5 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Common Stalking Defenses
There are several defenses that a skilled criminal defense lawyer may use to fight stalking charges, such as:
- No malicious intent – Perhaps contact was accidental or for a legitimate purpose.
- False allegations – The accuser is exaggerating or fabricating the stalking claims.
- Mistaken identity – The wrong person was identified as the stalker.
- Free speech – Certain activities like protesting may be protected speech.
- No emotional distress – The accuser did not suffer substantial emotional distress.
The Stalking Accusation Process
If you are accused of stalking, here is a basic overview of what to expect:
- The victim reports stalking to the police
- The police investigate and refer the case to prosecutors
- Prosecutors file criminal stalking charges against you
- You are arrested and bond out of jail
- The court holds an arraignment hearing on the charges
- Your lawyer enters a “not guilty” plea
- More hearings follow to negotiate a plea deal or prepare for trial
- You either take a plea bargain or go to trial
This process can take weeks or months to resolve. An experienced criminal defense lawyer can help guide you through it and protect your rights.
Working with a Stalking Defense Lawyer
The best way to respond to stalking charges is to hire a criminal defense lawyer right away. An attorney can:
- Advise you on the law and possible defenses
- Negotiate with the prosecutor for reduced charges or a favorable plea bargain
- Represent you in court hearings
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your defense
- Take the case to trial if necessary
Without a lawyer, you risk making mistakes that hurt your case. A conviction can result in jail time and impact your life for years to come.When researching defense lawyers, look for experience specifically dealing with stalking and restraining order cases. Understand the lawyer’s fees and payment options too.
Take Stalking Charges Seriously
Being accused of stalking should never be taken lightly. These cases can escalate quickly and lead to lasting harm. If charged with stalking, get legal help immediately. Listen to your attorney’s advice on how to resolve the case while avoiding further penalties.With an experienced stalking defense lawyer on your side, it is possible to contest the charges and protect your future. But you must be proactive and compliant with court orders. Work closely with your lawyer to put this difficult situation behind you.