A report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics states that 3.4 million Americans 16 years of age and older were victims of stalking in 2019. Additionally, it may be unsurprising to know that women continue to be victims of stalking at double the rate of men.
While some may think stalking is harmless, it can lead to emotional distress and violence in many instances. However, everyone makes mistakes, so if you’ve received a stalking charge in Florida, you deserve the right to fight your case in court. Read on to learn more about Florida stalking laws and the consequences of a conviction.
What’s Considered Stalking in Florida?
If the Hollywood film industry taught us anything, it’s that stalking is when someone hides in your property’s bushes and follows you around town. However, the true definition of stalking is much broader.
Florida Statute 784.048 defines stalking as any form of repeated harassment that creates a credible threat of harm. Harassment is a pattern of conduct that:
- Focuses on a specific person
- Causes substantial emotional distress
- Serves no legitimate purpose
Examples of Stalking in Florida
The crime of stalking spans many different activities. Here are some examples:
- Collecting information about someone without their permission, including:
- Asking questions about the person to friends and family members
- Hiring a private investigator
- Internet searches
- Searching public records
- Engaging in unwanted electronic communication, such as emails, text messages, or phone calls
- Following someone
- Leaving unwanted presents or letters
- Making threats against someone, their family, their friends, or their pets
- Photographing or filming someone without their knowledge
- Pursuing someone’s online activities
- Randomly showing up at someone’s home, school, or work
- Using a GPS application or device to locate someone
- Vandalizing a person’s property
Is Cyberstalking Illegal in Florida?
Yes, cyberstalking and other cyber crimes in Florida are illegal. Cyberstalking is the act of tracking a person’s computer, cell phone, or social media activity.
Cyberstalking is either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case.
How Do You Prove Cyberstalking in Florida?
If someone wants to prove they’re being stalked or cyberstalked, they need to collect documentation and witness accounts of the incidents and provide it to law enforcement officers.
Examples of valid evidence include:
- Emails, text messages, or phone call records
- Proof they tried to stop the stalking
- A timeline of when the stalking started and the events that followed
The plaintiff must also prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant acted maliciously and willfully.
If the evidence is credible, law enforcement officers will question the suspect and try to obtain a confession. If you’re considered a suspect in any stalking case, you want to seek legal representation immediately.
What’s the Penalty for Stalking in Florida?
Stalking charges in Florida are some of the strictest in the country. This is because the law allows early police intervention and carries tough penalties for those convicted.
Florida law has two different criminal offenses for stalking, detailed below.
Simple stalking occurs under one of the following situations:
- No minors were present
- No prior restraining order or injunction was in place
- No threats were made
The charge for simple stalking is a misdemeanor of the first degree. Those convicted may also face the following:
- A fine of up to $1,000, plus fees
- Up to a year in jail
- One year of probation
In addition to the first-degree misdemeanor, the court may order you to see a counselor or go to therapy. They may also allow the plaintiff to file an order of protection against you, valid for up to ten years.
Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony charge. It carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $5,000. As with simple stalking, the judge can also allow the plaintiff to file a restraining order lasting up to ten years.
Four types of aggravated stalking exist in the state of Florida.
- Child-aggravated stalking: The act of stalking someone younger than 15.
- Credible threat aggravated stalking: When the accused stalks and makes a credible threat intending to cause the victim to reasonably fear physical harm or death. A credible threat can be either verbal or nonverbal. It can also be a threat targeting a family member or friend. Under this type of aggravated stalking, there must be evidence that the accused could reasonably carry out the threat.
- Aggravated stalking: When the victim has a restraining order against the accused for dating violence, domestic violence, repeat violence, sexual violence, or other malicious conduct toward the protected person. However, the accused must be aware there was an injunction against them for this case to stand.
- Victim of a previous crime aggravated stalking: If the accused was prohibited from contacting the plaintiff yet continued to harass or stalk them. The accused must’ve been convicted of lewd or lascivious crimes upon or in the presence of someone under 16. The crimes can also include prohibited computer transmissions and sexual battery.
How to Get Stalking Charges Dropped in Florida
You should always take the offense of stalking seriously, even if you’re innocent. As soon as you face accusations of stalking, do not communicate with the alleged victim under any circumstances. Also, avoid speaking to the police without your criminal defense attorney present.
It’s imperative to hire an attorney to represent you. An attorney can develop a strong defense strategy for your stalking case. Some common defenses for how to get stalking charges dropped include:
- The accused engaged in first amendment activities, like picketing or organized protesting
- The contact was for legitimate purposes
- Mistaken identity
- A reasonable person would not be fearful under the facts of the case
It’s also possible the allegations are exaggerated or false. If the plaintiff cannot give ample evidence or produces flawed evidence, your attorney can highlight that you’re innocent.
Get the Help You Need from an Experienced Attorney
In the event you receive a stalking charge in Florida, you’ll need to hire a lawyer for assistance. Get help from the law firm of Mike G Law. Our criminal defense lawyers have ample experience in Florida stalking laws to help with your case. Schedule a free consultation now to receive legal advice about your stalking charges.