Washington DC Stalking Lawyer

Compared to other crimes, the offense of stalking is relatively new in DC and other jurisdictions. Staking is also unique since it consists of a pattern of conduct, rather than a single occurrence. Although many people think of stalking in connection with celebrities, the offense is frequently committed in Washington against people from all walks of life.

Stalking may be charged in situations where it is not warranted. In such cases, it may be particularly important to contact a Washington DC stalking lawyer as soon as possible to begin collecting evidence to build the most effective defense. A well-practiced stalking attorney could examine the evidence in your case and dispute any allegations you may be facing.

How Stalking is Defined Under DC Statutes

Section 21-3133 of the District of Columbia code defines the criminal offense of stalking in specific terms, but it may generally be thought of as occurring when one person “purposefully” undertakes a “course of conduct directed at a specific individual” that is likely to cause that individual to feel seriously disturbed or fear for their own safety or the safety of others. So, in order for the activity to be considered criminal stalking, it must:

  • Be intentional
  • Consist of enough instances to constitute a course of conduct
  • Be aimed at one particular person
  • Be committed with intent or knowledge of the likelihood of producing the requisite level of fear or disturbance

A Washington DC stalking lawyer could help a person accused of stalking determine if the allegation has any merit.

Role of Intent in a Stalking Case

The intent or state of mind of the person taking action may also play a role in determining whether a course of conduct rises to the level of criminal stalking under the statutory definition. If someone takes a series of actions with the specific intent to cause the targeted individual to fear for their safety or feel “seriously alarmed, disturbed, or frightened” or suffer emotional distress, then that intent could cause the actions to be considered stalking.

In a situation where that person does not intend to cause the target to feel such fear, alarm or distress but knows the series of actions will cause that fear, alarm or distress, then the conduct also may be treated as stalking.

Examples of Actions That Could Be Interpreted as Stalking

If the person taking the series of actions should realize that a reasonable person in the target’s circumstances would feel such fear, alarm or distress, then the conduct may be considered stalking even if there was no actual intent to cause these reactions.

Conduct that might not alarm the average person, such as walking past another person every day wearing a clown mask, could be considered stalking if the person wearing the mask knew that the other person had a severe phobia of clowns and would be frightened or distressed by seeing the clown mask.

Conversely, If someone followed another person home from work every day waving a sword in the air, that conduct could be considered stalking even if there was no intent to cause fear or distress because a reasonable person could be expected to feel fear or distress in such circumstances.

Penalties for Stalking

In many cases, stalking is treated as a serious misdemeanor with penalties that include up one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to $2,500.

It must be noted that the crime is aggravated and treated as a felony if:

  • The conduct causes injury worth more than $2,500
  • The person was under a court order prohibiting contact with the individual targeting by the stalking
  • The person had a prior conviction for stalking
  • The individual targeted was under age 18 and the person stalking the minor was at least four years older

In such cases, the potential fine increases to $12,500 and the maximum term of imprisonment increases to five years. (D.C. Code §22-3134). A qualified stalking lawyer in Washington DC could mitigate the penalties that a person may face.

Consulting with a Washington DC Stalking Attorney

Even as a misdemeanor, the penalties for stalking could be severe. A conviction creates a criminal record that may cause difficulties with housing, employment and other aspects of life for years into the future.

To learn how to protect your rights and your future if you are facing stalking charges, contact a Washington DC stalking lawyer and put our experience to work for you.