Understanding Stalking Charges in Florida

Stalking generally involves a pattern of behavior that occurs more than once over a period of time. The crime is a form of repeated harassment that creates a credible threat of harm to the victim. In the State of Florida, the definition of stalking includes four main components:

  1. The act involved knowingly following, harassing, or cyberstalking another person.
  2. The act was willful, meaning the stalker did it on purpose.
  3. The act was malicious, meaning it was intentionally harmful or motivated by wrongful purposes.
  4. The act occurred repeatedly, meaning it happened more than once.

Stalking and Aggravated Stalking

When an offender or stalker meets certain conditions, he or she may be charged with aggravated stalking. In Florida, this can happen under any of the following circumstances:

  • The person being stalked is under age 16.
  • Among the other unwanted behaviors, the offender made a “credible threat” to injure or kill the victim, intending to make the victim reasonably fear for his or her safety.
  • The victim has an injunction of protection (like a restraining order) against the offender, which prohibits the offender from acting against the victim or the victim’s property, but the offender has continued with the same pattern of behavior.

Stalking Examples

Contrary to popular belief, stalking doesn’t always involve a stranger hiding in the bushes outside another person’s home. In fact, the charge is often made against estranged partners and spouses. Stalking can involve repeatedly calling someone at work or at home, constantly text messaging or emailing them, vandalizing their personal property, or even sending them written notes or gifts.

Florida law also protects against cyberstalking, which refers to the use of electronic communication directed at a specific person—often via email, messaging, or social media, for example—that serves no legitimate purpose and causes emotional distress to the targeted person.

Criminal Penalties

Stalking is a first degree misdemeanor charge in the state of Florida. Possible punishments include up to one year in jail, one year of probation, $1,000 in fines, and a 10-year restraining order. A stalking charge can also be attached to other charges, like trespassing or breaking and entering, if they are applicable to the facts of the case.

Aggravated Stalking is a more serious felony, and is subject to more severe penalties which can  include up to 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, and $5,000 in fines. Because there are different types of aggravated stalking charges, the sentences can vary under different circumstances.

If you are facing stalking charges, you must act quickly to consult with an established criminal defense lawyer. Attorney Barry M. Wax can help you better understand Florida stalking laws, their implications, and the possible defense strategies you can use to avoid fines and incarceration. Call us today to start building your defense.

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax