Not all domestic violence crimes involve assault or physical altercations. Under the umbrella of domestic violence is threatening behavior that puts the victim in fear of imminent danger. By this definition, stalking may be considered an act of domestic violence.
In Texas, stalking isn’t just a crime or a potential act of domestic violence – it’s a felony. Because of this, if you have been charged with stalking, you are likely to face quite serious penalties.
What exactly is stalking, though, and what actions or accusations led to your stalking charges in the first place? Take the time to learn about your charges before reaching out to an experienced Texas defense lawyer and building your defense strategy.
What Is Stalking According to Texas Statutes?
Texas law defines stalking as a series of actions committed by one person against another that put the victim in fear of imminent danger, including:
- Bodily injury or death
- Bodily injury or death to the victim’s partner or family member
- Offenses committed against their property
Stalking is also defined by other emotions that the offender’s actions may incite, including feelings of harassment, annoyance, alarm, torment, or embarrassment.
All of these factors must be present in order for a person to be convicted of stalking. The same victim (or their property) must be the target of the threat – general threats will not be considered in stalking cases.
Offenders also do not have to make specific threats against the victim to be charged. The fear of burglary, trespassing, or other crimes against the victim’s property may be enough to qualify as criminal actions in Texas.
Stalking Doesn’t Have to Be Committed in Person
An individual in Fort Worth may still be charged with harassment against a person in a different part of Texas, even if the victim has not physically seen or interacted with the alleged offender. Threats that are sent over text messages or online are still considered threats. As long as these messages are sent to the same person and include specific threats, they will qualify as stalking.
Moreover, Texas may still charge someone for stalking even if they did not send the messages themselves. In other words, if the alleged offender has someone acting on their behalf, the offender may still be charged with a crime.
Penalties for Stalking Charges in Texas
Stalking is a felony of the third degree in Texas. If you are convicted, you may face penalties including:
- Between two and 10 years in prison
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Felony convictions may also result in the temporary loss of citizenship rights or severe limitations on getting a job or loan.
Offenders may also be subject to a protective order. The terms of a protective order may include required counseling, the loss of custody, or prohibitions on contacting or visiting the victim.
Protection orders may last for up to two years. Offenders who violate their protective order may be subject to jail time and additional fees.
Prior Stalking Conviction? Texas Might Hit You with Even More Serious Charges
Not all stalking crimes are third degree felonies – some are worse. Aggravating factors may increase charges to a felony in the second degree. For example, offenders who have a stalking crime on their criminal record will have to face elevated charges, even if the crime was committed in a different state. If you are convicted of a felony in the second degree, your prison sentence may be doubled – offenders can face up to 20 years behind bars.
This is why it is very important to fight back against all criminal charges, even if it is your first arrest. Just one past conviction could result in years of additional prison time down the road.
About the Author:
After getting his Juris Doctor from the University of Houston Law Center, Jeff Hampton began practicing criminal law in Texas in 2005. Before becoming a defense attorney, he worked as a prosecutor for the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office – experience he uses to anticipate and cast doubt on the arguments that will be used against his clients. Over the course of his career, he has helped countless Texans protect their rights and get the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. His skill has earned him recognition from the National Trial Lawyers (Top 100 Trial Lawyers) and Avvo (Top Attorney in Criminal Defense, Top Attorney in DUI & DWI, 10/10 Superb Rating), and he is Lead Counsel rated.