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In Florida, charges of stalking or aggravated stalking can severely disrupt your life. In some cases, people might be accused of stalking by others who are mistaken about their motives and actions. If you are facing stalking or aggravated stalking charges, you should speak to a Port Saint Lucie stalking lawyer at Kirschner & McEnery Law as soon as possible. Our experienced Saint Lucie criminal defense attorneys are strong advocates for people who are accused of crimes and can review your situation to identify potential defenses to the charges you are facing. Here is some information about the various types of stalking charges in Florida and their potential penalties.
The crime of stalking is defined in § 784.048, Fla. Stat. (2022) as occurring when someone willfully and maliciously follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person while making a credible threat. This involves engaging in a course of conduct over a period of time that causes the victim to experience emotional distress and that doesn’t have a valid purpose. A credible threat includes a nonverbal or verbal threat that is sent by electronic means or is communicated nonverbally by the person’s actions over a period of time and causes the target to reasonably fear for their safety or the safety of their family members. Stalking is treated seriously in Florida and can lead to serious consequences if you are convicted.
In Florida, stalking can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the actions of the defendant. If you are charged with stalking or cyberstalking after repeatedly contacting, following, harassing, or cyberstalking the alleged victim, you could be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction could lead to a sentence of up to 12 months in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.
You can be charged with felony or aggravated stalking if you stalk someone while also making a credible threat of injury to the alleged victim or their family members. If you are convicted of aggravated stalking, it is a third-degree felony. A conviction of aggravated stalking could lead to a prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of $5,000, or both imprisonment and a fine.
If you are charged with stalking or aggravated stalking, the alleged victim will likely request a restraining order. If a restraining order is issued by the court, you will be ordered to stay away from the victim and cease all contact, including through third parties or on the internet. If you are accused of stalking by your spouse or ex-spouse with whom you share children, your charges could also interfere with your ability to see your children.
Under § 741.28, Fla. Stat. (2022), stalking can be charged as a crime of domestic violence based on the relationship you have with the alleged victim. While domestic violence isn’t a separate offense in Florida, it does act as a sentence enhancer that can carry enhanced penalties. Stalking is listed as one of the crimes that can qualify as domestic violence when the person you are accused of stalking has one of the following relationships with you:
The stalking statute identifies several types of stalking offenses based on the victim and the defendant’s conduct. It also includes definitions of the terms included in the offense’s definition as follows:
Under § 784.048(2), willfully or maliciously harassing, following, or cyberstalking a victim over a period of time without a credible threat is a first-degree misdemeanor offense. This offense carries a penalty of a maximum of 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Under § 784.048(3), willfully or maliciously harassing, following, or cyberstalking a victim over a period of time while communicating a verbal or nonverbal credible threat is a third-degree felony aggravated stalking offense. This offense carries a penalty of a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Under § 784.048(4), willfully or maliciously harassing, following, or cyberstalking a victim following the issuance of a protective injunction for domestic, dating, sexual, or repeated violence is third-degree aggravated stalking. This offense carries a penalty of a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Under § 784.048(5), willfully or maliciously harassing, following, or cyberstalking a minor younger than age 16 is aggravated stalking and can result in a sentence of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
Under § 784.048(7), you can be charged with aggravated stalking if you willfully or maliciously harass, follow, or cyberstalk someone after you have been convicted of sexual battery, lewd or lascivious conduct with a minor, computer pornography, or traveling to meet a minor. This is a third-degree felony carrying up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. If you are convicted of aggravated stalking following a conviction for one of these offenses, your aggravated stalking sentence will be consecutive to the sentence imposed for the underlying offense.
Under § 784.048(9)(a)-(b), the court must consider issuing a protective order against the defendant when they are convicted of stalking the victim. A protective order can be issued for up to 10 years based on the seriousness of the offense. This order can be issued by the court even if the defendant is sentenced to prison.
Sexual cyberstalking is a related offense that is found in § 784.049(2)(c), Fla. Stat. (2022). This offense is commonly known as revenge porn and involves posting explicit images of the victim online with their identifying information and without their consent. A first offense of sexual cyberstalking is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of 12 months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A second or subsequent offense is a third-degree felony carrying up to a maximum of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
If a protection order has been issued against you for stalking or cyberstalking an alleged victim, violating that order can result in additional charges under § 784.0487, Fla. Stat. (2022). You can be charged with violating a protection order against stalking or cyberstalking if you do any of the following things:
This offense can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor carrying up to one year in jail and a fine of $1,000. However, you can be charged with a third-degree felony with a potential punishment of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if you have been convicted of violating a protection order two or more times in the past.
If you have been accused of stalking, aggravated stalking, or cyberstalking in Florida, you should consult a Port Saint Lucie cyberstalking attorney immediately at Kirschner & McEnery Law. Our attorneys have years of experience defending against stalking allegations and can carefully review what happened in your case. While stalking allegations are serious, you can still defend against them with the help of an experienced lawyer. We have established a long record of successful outcomes for our clients and will vigorously defend you against your charges. Contact us today for a consultation by calling (772) 489-8501.
Jonathan Jay Kirschner, Esq. Awards & Ratings