Criminal Defense Attorney Fairfax, VA
Being harassed or stalked is a nightmare no one should ever have to face, but it is nonetheless all too common in this day and age. If someone is ever accused of such behavior, it can quickly mushroom into extremely serious charges if not handled appropriately.
The Definition Is Wide-Ranging
While pop culture grants the general populace a fairly narrow view of harassment or stalking as a crime, the definition under many state laws can be quite vague. Harassment is defined as “making an obscene or indecent comment or request” with the intent to offend or scare a person. The stalking is defined as a course of conduct directed as a specific person, when the defendant knows or should know that the person would reasonably fear for their safety and/or experience other emotional harm. This does eliminate certain types of action, such as those undertaken in ignorance of a specific trauma or fear, but many other behaviors remain actionable.
While this does permit victims to seek redress if they feel threatened, it can also unintentionally encompass behavior the perpetrator did not intend to be harassing or threatening. The law nonetheless characterizes such activities as potentially meriting criminal consequences, but it is more likely that a compromise can be reached in some cases. Each individual case is different.
If Convicted, Sentences Are Stiff
Assuming that a harassment or stalking charge cannot be pled to or otherwise disposed of, the sentence for a conviction can be quite severe even for a first offender, due to the potentially dangerous nature of such crimes. Although each state sets their own laws, generally, a harassment conviction will usually be either a Class A or B misdemeanor, depending on whether the conviction is a first or subsequent offense. This carries a stiff fine and a sentence of up to 6 months in jail (for a Class B misdemeanor) or up to 1 year (for a class A misdemeanor).
Stalking convictions, by comparison, are always felonies, with the first being a Class 4 and a subsequent or aggravated stalking conviction being a Class 3. The rationale is that stalking requires more action and intent – harassment may be a component of stalking, if one goes by the legal definition. Sentences for stalking can be prison time of up to 5 years, plus a fine of up to $25,000 – certainly not a penalty to ignore.
In some states, laws have been passed which makes stalking and cyberstalking subject to hate crime penalties if certain criteria are met. This can add dollars and years to a sentence.
Seek Experienced Legal Assistance
Everyone deserves a chance to tell their side of the story, and it is possible that one may face charges like harassment without the full story being known. For assistance in such a potentially frightening time, contacting a seasoned criminal defense attorney Fairfax, VA relies on at Dave Albo – Attorney is a must.