Under Washington criminal law, people commit the crime of stalking if they repeatedly harass or follow another person, and as a result, the person fears for his or her safety. The offense can lead to felony charges punishable by several years in state prison. If you or a loved one is facing a stalking charge, contact a Washington criminal defense attorney now for help.
What is Stalking Per WA Law?
RCW 9A.46.110 is the Washington statute that sets forth the crime of stalking. Per this law, a person is guilty of stalking if they:
- Intentionally and repeatedly harass or follow another person (the alleged victim),
- The victim is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure him/her, his/her property, or another person, and
- The stalker either intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the victim, or knows or reasonably should know that the victim is afraid, intimidated, or harassed.
As to the second element above, a “victim’s” fear must be reasonable. This means that the fear a “victim” feels must be a feeling that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience under all the circumstances.
Note that for the purposes of this statute, a person can face stalking charges regardless as to whether the stalker intended to frighten, intimidate, or harass the “victim.” The focus, rather, is on the reasonableness of the “victim’s” fear.
What are the penalties?
Stalking is usually charged as a gross misdemeanor, which is punishable by:
- Custody in jail for up to one year, and/or
- A maximum fine of $5,000.
But if a person commits the offense under certain aggravating factors, the crime is charged as a class C felony, which is punishable by:
- Up to five years in state prison, and/or
- A maximum fine of $10,000.
Can a Defendant Raise a Legal Defense?
Yes. People charged with stalking can fortunately challenge it with a legal defense. A common defense is for a defendant to assert that a prosecutor cannot prove all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. Maybe, for example, an accused never “repeatedly” followed the alleged victim or perhaps the alleged victim’s fear was not reasonable.
In addition, a defendant can try and prove that the police violated one of his/her constitutional rights. Maybe, for instance, the police arrested the accused without probable cause or failed to read the party his/her Miranda rights. In these instances, a judge may decide to reduce or dismiss a charge because of the violation.
Contact Black & Askerov for Help
While a defendant can raise a legal defense to challenge a stalking charge, it will take a skilled criminal defense attorney to raise the best defense. The experienced defense attorneys at Black & Askerov have over 30 years of combined experience defending clients on stalking charges. Our Seattle criminal defense lawyers have the skill and commitment that makes all the difference in these cases. Our attorneys will also fight tooth and nail for you at every step of your case. Contact us now to get the legal help you deserve!