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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 very serious and can come with some ramifications that can haunt the person for the rest of their life. Really, what stalking has to do with following or harassing another person and also 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 actually meets the elements of Penal Code Section 646.9.


Many times though, what I've seen over the course of the last twenty-five years of dealing with stalking cases in the LA courts, is that a lot of times the alleged victim has blown things out of proportion is imagining things, and really 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 were romantically involved, and one party just 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. They basically try to use the police, prosecutors, and court system as a weapon against somebody whom 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 really shouldn't be litigated in the criminal court system.

Legal Defenses To Stalking

There are a number of defenses when it comes to a stalking charge in Los Angeles. One is – as I mentioned earlier – there has to be some sort of a credible threat. A lot of times somebody says something because they are mad or because they are not really serious about it, and the other person takes that serious or uses it against another party in order 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 alleged victim no longer wants to be with them if it's a relationship situation.

In other words, if the person who is claiming they are being stalked just all of a sudden 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.

A lot of times, when it comes to stalking, a particular defense will emerge from the facts and circumstances surrounding a particular case.

So, in other words, you can't just say there's always this defense when it comes to stalking. 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 around, and threatened in a criminal manner? Once you get to the bottom of that, then you can really 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.

Maybe the charges should be dismissed because the authorities don't have the defendant's version of events. They've only taken a one-sided account of what happened, and once they get the full picture, they realize, wait a minute, this is not a stalking charge. We're not going to charge criminal charges based on this particular activity.

So, what I do is I have the parties come into my office, my client – any of its family members that want to be involved in the discussion and the strategy session as far as how to resolve the case. We go over everything.

Obviously, I encourage people to be honest and give me all the information and don't leave anything out. Once we have all that, we develop a game plan to either get the charges dismissed or get them mitigated to something more reasonable that protects the person's record, their freedom, and all their rights related to being a citizen in the United States.

If you are being charged with stalking, it is important to contact an attorney that has experience and knowledge of the laws and defenses of the crime of stalking.

The crime of stalking is governed by California Penal Code section 646.9. in order to be convicted of stalking, the prosecution must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that you willfully and repeatedly harassed or followed another person, that you made a verbal threat either spoken, in writing, or electronically and you did so with the intent to place immediate fear on 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 for the purpose of annoying, tormenting, and terrorizing a person. The threat is done to place the person in reasonable fear, and the threat, although it can be made directly, 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 way too much about a person by gathering huge amounts of information.

Penalties Associated With Stalking

Stalking is a wobbler crime meaning that it 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 imposed can include up to 1 year in county jail and/or 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 harsher 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 same applicable elements apply as 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.

If you are facing stalking charges, your chances of success increase with an aggressive, experienced, and skilled domestic violence attorney by your side. Our Los Angeles Attorneys at the Hedding Law Firm have over 75 years of combined experienced and have dealt with numerous stalking situations. We can help. Call us and set up a free meeting so that we can talk about your specific charges further in detail.

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