Florida Stalking Laws and Penalties
- March 16th, 2022
- Bruce Denson
- Comments Off on Florida Stalking Laws and Penalties
Florida stalking laws were put in place to protect individuals from harassment, following, and cyberstalking committed by another person. This person is often a former partner or estranged spouse.
While mental illness and substance abuse often contribute to the actions of a stalker, these are not excuses. Any action that causes a person to feel substantial emotional distress should be addressed in a court of law.
For the victims of stalkers, the experience can be highly disorienting, which is especially true if the perpetrator was once a romantic partner or close friend. Moving from what was once a charming relationship to one that is fraught with fear is upsetting.
Fortunately, Florida stalking statutes have made the offense a crime, and penalties are in place to protect those who feel unsafe.
What Is Considered to Be Stalking in Florida?
Florida stalking laws are specific in their definition of stalking. To be considered stalking, the accused must engage in a pattern of malicious and willful behavior that occurs over a period of time – not just once. Florida stalking statutes define stalking as repeated harassment that creates a credible threat of harm.
Examples of Stalking
Stalking can take many different forms. A few examples include:
- Vandalism of a person’s property
- Repeatedly calling someone’s place of business
- Leaving unwanted gifts or notes
- Following someone as they complete their daily routine
- Pursuing a person’s online activities
- Implanting a GPS device to determine a person’s whereabouts
- Videotaping or photographing someone without their knowledge
- Collecting information about someone without their permission
- Hiring a private investigator to find information on someone
- Contacting the person’s friends, family members, or acquaintances for information
- Making threats against the person, their friends, or family members
Any of these items may cause the victim significant emotional distress.
The Penalties for Stalking in Florida
Florida stalking laws allow for a charge of a first-degree misdemeanor. The penalties may include up to one year in jail, one year of probation, and a restraining order lasting up to 10 years.
A person may be sentenced to a year of probation or even given a full year in jail, depending on the severity of the charges. Those convicted of aggravated stalking may face stiffer fines and penalties.
What Is Aggravated Stalking?
Perpetrators who stalk minors or who threaten the victim with severe injury or death are commonly charged with aggravated stalking. There are four types of aggravated stalking, according to Florida stalking laws. Penalties for aggravated stalking are much more serious than stalking.
Credible Threat Aggravated Stalking
To be convicted of credible threat aggravated stalking, it must be proven that the accused willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed, harassed, or cyberstalked another person without a reasonable doubt. The accused must have made a credible threat that caused the person to fear physical injury or death.
The credible threat may be verbal or nonverbal, but it must put the target person in reasonable fear for their safety. A credible threat may also include a threat to the target person’s friend or family member. It must be evident that the accused has the ability to carry out the threat.
Child Aggravated Stalking
If it can be proven without a reasonable doubt that someone followed, harassed, or cyberstalked someone younger than 15 years of age, that person will be convicted of child aggravated stalking.
Injunction Violation Aggravated Stalking
When proving this type of aggravated stalking, the prosecution must demonstrate without a reasonable doubt that the accused followed, harassed, or cyberstalked another person despite the presence of an injunction that protected them.
The injunction could be for prior offenses related to dating violence, sexual violence, domestic violence, or some other form of conduct. The accused must know that the injunction exists.
Victim of a Previous Crime Aggravated Stalking
To be convicted of being this type of aggravated stalking, the accused must have been convicted for lewd or lascivious crimes upon or in the presence of someone younger than 16 years of age. These crimes may also include sexual battery or prohibited computer transmissions to someone aged 16 years or younger.
The accused must have been prohibited from being in contact with the person yet followed, harassed, or repeatedly cyberstalked them.
Penalties for Aggravated Stalking in Florida
According to Florida stalking laws, penalties for aggravated stalking are severe. If a person is convicted of aggravated stalking, they will receive a felony in the third degree, which carries a prison term of up to five years and a monetary fine of $5,000. If there is a previous conviction of stalking, penalties can be even more severe.
What Is Considered to Be Harassment in Florida?
Harassment is engaging in a pattern of conduct that is directed at a specific person, causes substantial emotional distress to that person, and serves no legitimate purpose.
There are many different forms of harassment, but one example is repeatedly calling or texting someone who doesn’t want to be contacted or contacting their friends or acquaintances.
How Do I Prove Stalking in Florida?
To prove stalking, one must have documentation or witness accounts that indicate the issues. The victim should show evidence of stalking, such as the following:
- Harassing emails, records of phone calls, or text messages
- A timeline of when the stalking began and the pattern that was followed
- Evidence that they have tried to stop the stalking
Without evidence, it is hard to determine whether a claim of stalking may be exaggerated or misleading. Cases without appropriate documentation may be thrown out.
Have You Been Accused of Stalking?
If you have been accused of stalking in Pinellas County, it is important to have a knowledgeable legal team to provide you with a good defense. Florida stalking laws are quite stringent, and having a team on your side can help you.
It may be possible to defend yourself against stalking charges, but only someone familiar with appropriate legal strategies can assist. Consulting with an experienced St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney is in your best interests. Contact the Denson Firm to schedule a free, confidential consultation today.