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Penal Code 646.9 PC – Stalking Law in California

When it comes to stalking charges, if the prosecutors can prove a credible case against a particular defendant, this charge is severe. It can have some ramifications that can haunt the person for the rest of their life. But what stalking has to do with following or harassing another person and making a credible threat against that person?

When we see people who are basically obsessed with another person and cannot stop harassing that person and following them around and doing a combination of crazy things related to that person – and even threatening the person – this is where the police have special units and prosecutors who will do everything they can obviously, to try to protect a victim of a stalking crime that meets the elements of Penal Code Section 646.9.


Many times though, what I've seen over the last twenty-five years of dealing with stalking cases in the LA courts is that the alleged victim has blown things out of proportion, is imagining things, and is contributing to whatever is happening.

Sometimes people don't realize that this other person does not want them to be associated with them anymore.

Sometimes it's a situation where the two parties are romantically involved, and one party abruptly decides for one reason or another that they do not want to be romantically involved with the other party.

Then, all of a sudden, there's a stalking allegation made against the person without giving that person proper warning or knowledge that they did not want to be with them. So they try to use the police, prosecutors, and court system as a weapon against somebody they don't like anymore and don't want to be with anymore.

Other times, there are sinister reasons behind a stalking allegation that have to do with issues that shouldn't be litigated in the criminal court system.

Penalties Associated With Stalking

Stalking is a wobbler crime that may be charged as a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the specific circumstances of the crime and your prior criminal record. If convicted of a misdemeanor, the penalties can include up to 1 year in county jail and a $1000 fine, as opposed to a felony conviction which can result in up to 5 years in state prison and a $1000 maximum fine.

Other penalties associated with a conviction of the crime of stalking are restraining orders, mandatory sex registration, long term imprisonment. The reason for some of these harsher penalties is that victims of stalking may also be victims of rape, assault, battery, domestic violence, and murder, crimes of which carry more drastic consequences.

Although very rare, stalking may be charged as a federal crime. “Interstate Stalking,” the federal anti-stalking law, makes it a federal felony to stalk/harass an individual from state to state or on military bases. All the same applicable elements apply to what the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A conviction carries a maximum penalty of five years and a fine of $250,000.

Legal Defenses To Stalking

There are several defenses regarding a stalking charge in Los Angeles. One is – as I mentioned earlier – there has to be some credible threat. A lot of times, somebody says something because they are mad or not serious about it, and the other person takes that seriously or uses it against another party to try to get a stalking charge against them.

Stalking - Penal Code 646.9 PC
I wrote the book on defending domestic violence charges.

So, if the threat's not credible – someone is just shooting their mouth off without really any indication that they're going to put anything behind it – that would be one way to defend a stalking charge. Another way would be that the person who is purportedly stalking an alleged victim has not been made sufficiently aware that that victim no longer wants to be with them if it's a relationship situation.

In other words, if the person claiming they are being stalked suddenly decides – because they have a new significant other or for some other reason – that you know what, I'm going to use the criminal justice system to get rid of this person. I'm going to claim that they are following around, threatening me – these are circumstances where I've seen that a defense can be developed to combat the stalking charge.

You have to look at what happened, what the reasons are behind the two parties being at odds, and why the party that's claiming they are being stalked is making these allegations.

In other words, what evidence do they have that they are being harassed, followed, and threatened criminally? Once you get to the bottom of that, you can get down to the nitty-gritty as to whether or not this is a stalking case or maybe it really shouldn't be a case.

The crime of stalking is governed by California Penal Code section 646.9. to be convicted of stalking, the prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you willfully and repeatedly harassed or followed another person and made a verbal threat, either in writing or electronically. Further, you did so to place immediate fear in the person regarding safety. See related: How A Stalking Charge Can Be Effectively Dealt With In Los Angeles County?

Stalking generally has no legitimate purpose. The harassment is done to annoy, torment, and terrorize a person. The threat is made to place the person in reasonable fear, and although it can be made directly, it can also be implied by a pattern of behavior and a combination of statements.

Some examples are: planning a “run into” someone; several phone calls, texts, emails, and letters; sending unwanted gifts; knowing too much about a person by gathering vast amounts of information.

How to Get the Best Result in a Domestic Violence Stalking Case?

When it comes to domestic violence, sometimes I see other charges filed with these cases.  California Penal Code 646.9 PC stalking is definitely one of them. 

Suppose you are following your loved one, stalking them, calling them, and torturing them. In that case, you're not only going to be charged with a domestic violence-related offense but you also could be charged with stalking, which is certainly not a crime that you want on your criminal record. 

It makes you look like you've got some mental issues related to your significant other. So, to get the best result, we have to figure out exactly what's going on – why you allegedly follow the person around. 

Reviewing the Case Details

Sometimes the person tries to get the other individual in trouble, and they come up with this stalking charge. However, in reality, they didn't tell the person they didn't want to see them, and they didn't make it clear to stay away from them, and there may be other issues. 

Maybe there's a child involved.  Maybe some other issue is not being put out to the police or prosecutors, so they don't see the whole story. 

I think that's one big thing you get when you hire a private criminal defense attorney when you're charged with stalking, and that is, they're going to take the time to tell your story to the prosecutor and judge. 

Your attorney will ensure that it's not just a one-sided case.  The whole thing has to be brought out – the full truth. And then, of course, it's my job to mitigate things for you and to put my 30 years of experience to work for you and figure out:

  • what we can do to take the case of this case,
  • keep you out of custody,
  • keep you from other bad consequences that can stem from these charges.

Preparing a Game Plan

What I have you do is come into my office.  We sit down and talk about the case.  We figure out what our roadmap is going to be.

In other words, will we fight the case, do the preliminary hearing, and try to get it dismissed at the preliminary hearing?  Are we going to:

  • file any motions that might be appropriate, or
  • are we going to take the case to a jury trial?

Once we make that decision, then the pieces will fall into place.  We will investigate the case and prepare it for a vigorous defense.

Mitigate the Case

If, on the other hand, we decide that it's best to try to mitigate the case and work out a resolution, then I will figure out what we need to get you the best deal on the case.

For example, character letters filed on your behalf and me putting together mitigation – showing the prosecutor your side of the story so we can get a better resolution and maybe even coming up with different charges other than stalking that are not as egregious and make you look as bad.

So, if you need the best, put my 30 years of experience to work for you.  I've worked for the district attorney's office.  I've worked for a superior court judge.

In the early 1990s, I became a criminal defense attorney and started defending people just like you for stalking charges and getting the best result. Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you.