The crime of “stalking” is defined by RCW 9A.46.110. If you or someone you know is being charged with or even accused of “stalking” it is a good idea to know the intricacies of this relatively complex criminal statute. As a general rule, if you are aware that a stalking allegation has been or is being made against you in the state of Washington, whether or not formal charges have been filed, it is imperative to contact a Washington domestic violence lawyer as soon as possible. The steps you take can help lessen the chances that you could face a stalking conviction if not eliminate the possibility of a stalking charge being filed completely.
Stalking is a series of behaviors and harassing contacts that place a person in reasonable fear of injury to that person, another person, or the property of that person or another person. It is also necessary that the individual accused of stalking either:
- Intends to frighten, intimidate or harass the person, or
- knows or reasonably should know that the person is afraid intimidated or harassed, regardless of whether or not the accused intended to intimidate or harass the person.
It is not a defense to this crime that the accused was never given actual knowledge that the person did not wish to be followed. It is, however, a defense to the charge if the accused is a licensed private investigator acting within the scope of his or her license.
The crime of stalking is broken down into two categories, gross misdemeanor, and Class C felony. The gross misdemeanor is simply committing the offense described above absent any other circumstances. The same conduct constitutes a felony in cases where the stalker:
- has previously been convicted of harassment against the victim or victim’s family
- violates a protective order designed to protect the victim
- has a previous conviction for stalking, gross misdemeanor or felony
- is in possession of a deadly weapon while stalking
- other situations where the victim is part of the legal system, the stalking is in retaliation for official acts as part of official duties, the stalking is an attempt to intimidate a witness from testifying
Again, do not wait to consult with an attorney if you are facing this kind of allegation. A stalking allegation is often times based upon a series of coincidences that lead to a phone call to the police. Worse, the allegation can be used as a sword by a vindictive person who understands the law and what a DV stalking allegation would do to somebody. That’s not to say that there are no real instances where stalking exists and is occurring. But if you are facing this charge, you do not want to make any missteps that might tend to make you look guilty.
Often times, the accused will want to contact the accuser to “talk it out” and try to resolve the matter before the police get involved. Or they will write letters, send emails, text messages or leave voicemails. As good willed as these efforts may be, they only tend to fuel the fire of the stalking allegation and make things worse.