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NY Penal Law § 120.50: Stalking in the third degree

June 27, 2020 Federal Criminal Attorneys

NY Penal Law § 120.50: Stalking in the third degree

According to New York law, the act of stalking goes further than merely annoying another person. It entails repeated, unwanted behavior that appears obsessive toward another individual. As a result of such behavior, that individual feels emotionally, mentally or physically threatened. As a behavior, stalking can include a variety of actions such as tailing, tracking using GPS, telephoning, emailing, and texting. It can also involve showing up at a person’s place of employment, or sending someone messages through another person. It is a crime that is common related to domestic violence issues. Stalking in the third degree is one of the two stalking charges in the criminal code that are misdemeanors.  You will be charged with stalking in the third degree under New York Penal Code § 120.50 if you do any of the following:


  1. Repeatedly tail, track or communicate with another individual in a manner that makes that person believe that you might physically harm that person, harm that person’s loved ones or damage that person’s property, or
  2. Appear unexpectedly and without invitation at another’s job or business, or communicate with that individual at his or her job or business such that you put his or her job, business or career in peril 




  1. You stalk 3 or more different individuals on in least 3 separate events; or


  1. Within the prior 10 years, you have been convicted of one of several predicate crimes indicated in the criminal code, and the present stalking victim and the predicate crime victim were the same or the predicate crime victim was a member of the present stalking victim’s family; or


  1. Intending to annoy, harass or alarm the person you are targeting, you engage in a course of conduct that is likely to make that person believe that you will physically harm, kidnap, commit a sex offense, or commit the crime of unlawful imprisonment against him or her or that person’s immediate family; or


  1. Within the previous 10 years, you have been convicted under New York Penal Code § 120.45 of stalking in the fourth degree.


For Example

A man places calls to his ex-girlfriend 10-20 times per day over the course of one week. On some of these calls, he leaves messages threatening that if she does not return his calls he would come to her home. This is behavior that could draw stalking charges, but he could not be prosecuted for the crime of stalking in the third degree unless he has either previously been convicted of stalking in the fourth degree, or he has been convicted for a predicate offense against the ex-girlfriend or a member of the ex-girlfriend’s family. Otherwise, the man would likely be charged and  prosecuted for stalking in the fourth degree.


Offenses that are Related

Stalking in the fourth degree: New York Penal Code § 120.45

Stalking in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 120.55

Stalking in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 120.60

Kidnapping in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 135.20

Harassment in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 240.25

Aggravated harassment in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 240.30


Possible Defenses

To be successfully convicted of stalking in the third degree, the prosecutor needs to demonstarte not only that you committed the crime of stalking, but also that you have done so to more than one individual, or that you have a history of stalking or sexual assault. If the prosecutor is only able to prove that you have stalked 1 or 2 other individuals, for example, then the prosecutor would not have enough evidence to support a charge of stalking in the third degree.


The Sentence

Since stalking in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, if you are convicted, your sentence may consist of up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. There is also a possibility that the judge could sentence you to a probation term of 3 years in lieu of the jail term.



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