Stalking Defense Lawyer in Tampa
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The term “stalking” is often used loosely. Nevertheless, behavior that meets the legal definition of stalking is punishable in criminal court in Tampa, Florida, and may result in serious time in federal prison. Under Florida law, this crime is characterized by a pattern of willful, malicious behavior that occurs more than once over a period of time. While most people think stalking is deliberately following a person or making harassing phone calls, there are several other behaviors that fall under the legal umbrella, depending on frequency of occurrence. Regardless, if you’ve been charged with this type of federal crime, always collaborate with an expert Tampa stalking defense attorney before saying anything that might hurt your case.
Examples this crime include:
- following a person once or on a routine basis
- driving past or randomly showing up at a place another person frequents, such as a job, place of worship or school
- monitoring a person’s phone or online activity
- monitoring a person’s movements via GPS
- sending unwanted emails, gifts or messages
- secretly photographing or recording another person
- gathering information about another person without permission
- threatening to harm another person or his or her associate, family member or pet
- damaging a person’s home, vehicle or property
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
Misdemeanor vs. felony stalking in Florida
Florida law recognizes multiple degrees of this crime. In order to establish a case for a defendant to be convicted of first degree misdemeanor stalking, the prosecution must prove the defendant harassed the alleged victim. Harassment is defined as engaging in a course of conduct that has no legitimate purpose, but causes the alleged victim substantial emotional distress. Florida also recognizes the elevated offense of aggravated stalking, which is a third degree felony. Aggravated stalking in Tampa can be filed under several subsections:
Subsection 3: Stalking with a credible threat
In order to prove stalking with a credible threat, prosecutors must first establish the required elements of a first degree charge. The prosecution must also prove:
- The defendant made a credible threat against a life or a threat to do bodily harm to the victim with the intent to cause the victim to fear for his or her safety and
- The threat was made with the intent to cause the victim to reasonably fear death or bodily injury or the death of or bodily injury to the victim’s spouse, child, sibling, or parent.
Subsection 4: Stalking after an injunction for protection
In some cases, a person may obtain a court-ordered injunction in the interest of preventing another person from making contact. Section 4 applies to protective orders that are issued in cases that involve repeated violence offenses, sexual violence, dating violence, or domestic violence. The aggravated offense of Stalking After an Injunction for Protection occurs when an individual who has been ordered to stay away from another person violates the court order by making prohibited contact.
Subsection 5: Stalking with a child under 16 years of age
In Florida, stalking a minor who is under 16 years of age automatically qualifies as an aggravated offense. Therefore, the prosecution must simply establish that the victim was under 16 in addition to proving all the elements of the misdemeanor offense of first-degree stalking.
Subsection 7: Stalking with a specified no contact order
Stalking that occurs after the alleged perpetrator had been convicted of certain offenses is automatically elevated to an aggravated offense. Crimes that cause a misdemeanor charge to be elevated include:
- sexual battery
- lewd or lascivious offenses committed against or in the presence of a person under 16 years of age
- crimes involving certain computer transmissions
In addition to having been convicted of one of these aforementioned offenses, the accused must have also been ordered by a court to cease all contact with the victim.
Defenses against stalking
Occasionally, a Tampa resident may be wrongfully accused of stalking. For example, if two people who are romantically involved break up, and one party is required to pass by the other party’s apartment building on the way to work, the party who passes by the apartment each day would not likely be convicted of stalking if he or she is able to prove that the apartment building if along the route to work and that he or she has not made further contact with the other party. Charges may be erroneously filed when people are involved in a dispute or when one person simply wishes to avoid the other four reasons that do not include a threat of violence. For example, a person may accuse someone of stalking if he or she owes the other party money and the person to whom the debt is owed repeatedly makes non-threatening phone falls in the interest of collecting the debt. An individual who reasonably makes calls in the interest of collecting a debt is unlikely to be convicted.
Retain a federal defense attorney immediately
Anyone who has been accused of misdemeanor or aggravated charges should contact an experienced Tampa stalking defense lawyer who is experienced in handling federal cases. Convictions can have very serious implications for an individual’s personal and professional reputation. David Joffe can help. Call us today.