Police in the Philadelphia area have been searching for a man wanted in three sexual assaults over the past week. Recently, a woman told news outlets she had been stalked by someone and after seeing the footage released, she knew it was the same man. The story has people in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas on alert, and has some asking questions about the offense of stalking in Pennsylvania. Below are four of the most common questions people are asking, and the answers to them.
How is Stalking Defined in Pennsylvania?
Stalking is a criminal offense and has two elements to it in Pennsylvania law. The first is that the accused must act in an unwanted way at least twice in order for their behavior to be considered stalking. It is important to note that it does not matter how much time passed between the second and subsequent acts.
The second element requires someone to be placed under reasonable fear of suffering a serious bodily injury, or emotional distress as a result of the unwanted acts. The prosecution must prove both of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction.
Who Can File Stalking Charges Against Someone?
Like rape, harassment, and other criminal acts, it is generally the victim that reports behavior they believe amounts to stalking. Still, only the district attorney’s office can decide whether or not they are going to press charges. This decision usually depends on how much evidence they have against the accused, and how strong they believe the case is.
What are Some Examples of Stalking?
Having an argument with someone, or receiving a couple of unwelcome texts are probably not enough to constitute stalking. However, there are some acts that are more common than others and that may constitute the offense of stalking. These are as follows:
- Sending multiple unwanted gifts to the victim, such as flowers, cards, or jewelry
- Following a victim on foot or in a car
- Showing up at the victim’s home or workplace without being invited
- Excessively calling or texting
- Taking pictures of someone without their permission
- Threatening to harm the victim’s family, friends, and even pets if the victim does not comply with requests
It is important to note that context is very important when determining whether an act constitutes stalking. For example, a person may only text someone a few times. Still, the content is disturbing enough to place the victim in fear and so, the act meets the definition of stalking.
What are the Penalties for Stalking?
Stalking is a very serious crime in Pennsylvania. Many people think it is a minor offense because it is classified as a first degree misdemeanor. Still, a conviction can result in up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000.
Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Charges
Stalking has very serious consequences for those convicted, but the situation is not hopeless. At van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin, our Allentown criminal defense lawyers know that not everyone charged is guilty of a crime, and we will build a solid case to prove it. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation and to learn more.