Stalking another person is a crime with serious consequences in Florida. Whether arising out of allegations of domestic violence, cyber-bullying, or any other situation, stalking may result in criminal charges. At Ellis and Bryant, our Jacksonville domestic violence lawyers can protect your rights and help you fight a charge for stalking or violating an injunction. We have the experience and knowledge to guide you after an arrest for stalking.Overview of Florida Criminal Offenses for Stalking
Under Florida law, stalking is a crime that is committed when someone follows, harasses, or cyberstalks someone, and does so willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly. Harassment may take many forms and may be carried out through different acts. However, these acts must form a pattern of conduct consisting of a series of acts over time, which are directed towards a specific person and which serve no legitimate purpose. In addition, the conduct must cause the victim substantial emotional distress.
Stalking may be a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense in Florida, depending on the circumstances of the case. A basic, first-time stalking offense is a misdemeanor in the first degree, carrying a maximum sentence of one year in jail, probation, a fine of up to $1,000, and a restraining order against the defendant if convicted. The offense may be elevated to a third-degree felony for aggravated stalking if certain factors are alleged. For example, if the alleged victim was under 16 years old when the offense occurred, the defendant may be charged with aggravated stalking. Additional Florida stalking crimes are listed below.Cyberstalking
A Florida stalking charge may arise even if you have no physical or face-to-face contact with the alleged victim. Cyberstalking is a form of stalking that may occur through the use of social media, online forums, email, text messaging, and other electronic communication. In Florida, cyberstalking is committed by engaging in a course of conduct against a specific person to communicate words or images to them through any electronic means, causing substantial emotional distress to that person and serving no legitimate purpose. Cyberstalking also includes accessing or attempting to access online accounts or Internet-connected home electronic systems of another person without their permission. Cyberstalking may be a first-degree misdemeanor or third-degree felony offense, depending on the elements involved in the case. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can assess the charges against you and help you develop a case strategy.Aggravated Stalking with a Credible Threat
Stalking that includes threats against another person’s family or friends may elevate the offense to aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking is committed by willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person, and in addition, making a credible threat to the alleged victim to cause harm. A credible threat may be made verbally or nonverbally, sent electronically, or implied through a pattern of conduct. However, the threat must appear to be able to be carried out, and be serious enough that the alleged victim reasonably fears for their own safety, or the safety of their family members or close associates.Aggravated Stalking After Injunction or No-Contact Order
Individuals accused of stalking prior victims of domestic violence and sex crimes may face enhanced penalties for aggravated stalking. In cases where there is a court-order in place prohibiting the defendant from contacting or being near the victim, such as a no-contact order or an injunction for protection, the offense may be charged as aggravated stalking. A conviction requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed a stalking offense, and that it was committed after the injunction for protection or no-contact order was entered against the defendant.Retain a Jacksonville Lawyer to Defend Against a Stalking Charge
The Jacksonville attorneys at Ellis and Bryant provide experienced defense representation in criminal cases for stalking, aggravated stalking, domestic battery, and other domestic violence crimes. We can assist people in Middleburg, Orange Park, Jacksonville Beach, and other areas of Duval County and Clay County. Request a free consultation by calling our office at (904) 551-4120 or contacting us online.