Rockland County Stalking Lawyer
New York’s laws concerning stalking can range from low-level misdemeanors all the way to serious felonies. The severity of the charge depends on a person’s previous convictions for stalking, whether they used any dangerous weapon, or whether any physical harm was caused to the alleged victim. As such, these cases can be serious and involve complex legal matters. A Rockland County stalking lawyer who is experienced in examining the State’s evidence in the case and forming an aggressive defense strategy could help you avoid a criminal conviction.
What Types of Behavior Counts as Stalking?
There are four versions of stalking in New York Penal Law. Under New York Penal Law §120.45, all of these charges involve similar activity. A person is stalking someone if they act in a way that would reasonably be expected to cause fear:
- For the health or well-being of another person or their family
- For the mental state of another person or their family through following, telephoning, or otherwise communicating with the alleged victim
- In a person that threatens their business or career
Generally, to prove that someone is stalking another, the prosecution must be able to prove intent. Part of proving intent may include showing that the person was previously warned to stop the activity in question or otherwise reasonably knew that it caused fear. An attorney in Rockland County could help someone who has been accused of stalking.
What is Reasonable Fear?
One potential defense for certain stalking charges is based on whether or not the reporting witness’ fear was reasonable. This charge requires the state to prove that the accused placed the reporting witness in a reasonable fear of physical harm, unlawful imprisonment, sex offense, or death. If the court finds that person’s fear to be unreasonable, a conviction is not warranted. Examples of when a person’s fears may be unwarranted include when they knew the accused was joking, when the accused was acting with their consent, or when the behavior the reporting witness fears was impossible under the circumstances.
Degrees of Stalking Charges
The most basic charge is stalking in the fourth degree. This is a class B misdemeanor, meaning that a conviction can result in a jail term of up to three months. More serious charges can result in enhanced penalties.
Stalking in the third-degree is defined in New York Penal Law §120.50 as intentionally engaging in any conduct that is intended to cause fear of any physical harm, sex offense, unlawful imprisonment, or death in the mind of another. Alternatively, a person may be charged with stalking in the third-degree if they have a prior conviction for this crime in the fourth-degree in the past 10 years or have three or more prior allegations of stalking in the fourth-degree. This is a class A misdemeanor that can increase the potential penalty to a year in jail.
Stalking in the First and Second Degree
As explained in New York Penal Law §120.55 and §120.60 the most serious versions of this offense are stalking in the first and second degree. Both are felonies. Someone can be charged with stalking in the first or second-degree when an incident results in a physical injury, involves the use of a deadly weapon or is committed against a child. In addition, a person who repeatedly stalks another may face felony-level charges. Conviction of a felony offense can result in more than one year in prison.
No matter the level of stalking charges that a person faces, the potential penalties for conviction are serious. Therefore, anyone facing stalking allegations should take steps to protect themselves and consult with a Rockland County lawyer.
Should I Hire an Attorney for a Stalking Case?
Anyone in Rockland County who serves as their own attorney following an accusation of stalking is putting their case at risk unnecessarily. This is true of both misdemeanor as well as felony charges. While the decision to hire an attorney can only be made by the person accused of a crime, there are numerous benefits to seeking legal counsel.
In many cases, the right attorney could obtain a reduction in charges or an outright dismissal. This is often possible thanks to our team’s thorough understanding of the law as well as the justice system within this area. An attorney could also rely on their skill and experience to negotiate a favorable that might not be possible for a person to obtain on their own. Most importantly, the challenges that come with a stalking trial can be too much for someone without legal training.
Speaking with a Rockland County Stalking Attorney
Allegations of stalking can ruin a person’s life. Not only must that person deal with the potential criminal penalties for a conviction, but when these allegations involve a household member, the court may mark the case as an incident of domestic violence. This can affect a person’s family life, job, and force them to move out of their home.
A Rockland County stalking lawyer could work tirelessly to defeat the criminal charges and fight back against any potential protective orders requested by the prosecution. Contact a lawyer today to discuss your case.