This may be surprising to many, but the vast majority of all stalking charges are filed by people against their ex-partners and ex-spouses. Contrary to popular belief, it is much more likely to be stalked by someone you know very well than a complete stranger you have never seen before.
That’s the sad reality, yet Pennsylvania courts deal with stalkers very seriously, even those who intend no harm to their “target” and are merely showering them with unwanted phone calls, texts, emails, or even gifts.
Our Pittsburgh criminal defense attorneys at SMT Legal explains that stalking charges are often filed after breakups and divorces. And even though you used to be in a romantic relationship or marriage with the person you are “stalking,” you may still be facing imprisonment.
Given the seriousness of these charges in Pennsylvania, it is important to retain legal assistance from a skilled criminal defense lawyer who will help you build a strong legal case to present your case in front of a jury in a convincing fashion.
What is Stalking?
In Pennsylvania, stalking is not a one-time incident. It is defined as a pattern of repeated harassment, malicious and willful behavior that causes the victim substantial emotional distress and fear of harm.
Whenever most people hear the word “stalking,” they immediately imagine some creepy guy lurking outside of a window at night. However, the vast majority of these cases involve ex-partners or ex-spouses making phone calls over and over again, sending countless unanswered text messages, and leaving unwanted gifts.
“The most important factor when it comes to determining whether the alleged stalker’s actions can be considered stalking is whether his or her actions cause the victim substantial emotional distress and fear of bodily injury or harm,” explains our experienced stalking attorney in Pittsburgh.
Penalties for Stalking in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, stalking can be charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000. If a stalker has been previously convicted of stalking the same victim or convicted of a violent crime involving the same victim or family, he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
Since stalking often involves estranged or former partners and spouses, many victims of stalking in Pennsylvania choose to seek restraining orders against the stalker in an attempt to discourage the offender from attempting to communicate or come anywhere near the victim.
Pittsburgh Stalking Attorneys
Since the definition of stalking leaves plenty of room for interpretation, nearly anyone can be prosecuted. For example, sending hundreds of hateful and threatening messages to your ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend on Instagram may be considered “stalking,” and so is repeatedly leaving unwanted gifts at your former girlfriend’s doorstep in an attempt to get her back despite her clear lack of interest.
It is also a common scenario for men to stalk women they went on a date with after the woman ignored them or expressed her lack of interest. When these actions cause fear of harm or emotional distress to the victim, the stalker will most likely be prosecuted for his or her illegal actions. This is a serious accusation in Pennsylvania, which is why getting help from a skilled criminal defense lawyer in SMT Legal is of great importance.