In simplest terms, stalking is one person’s unwanted pursuit of another, and by its nature, the crime is not referring to a single event, but a clear pattern of conduct where the offender follows, harasses, or threatens a person, inlcuding cyberstalking.
According to Texas
stalking laws, a person commits the
offense if on more than one occasion he or she knowingly engages in conduct
that the other person would regard as threatening or would cause a reasonable
person to become fearful or feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented,
embarrassed, or otherwise offended.
Charges can be brought
against an offender regardless of whether there is any pre-existing relationship,
and as with any criminal charge, the prosecution must prove stalking beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you are facing stalking charges
but have questions about the specific circumstances surrounding your case, an
experienced Texas criminal defense attorney
will have the knowledge and insight you need. In the meantime, today’s post
will discuss some of the most common defense strategies you can use to fight
back against stalking charges.
It Wasn’t Me
There is always the
possibility of a case of mistaken identity – especially when the victim does
not have a prior relationship with the offender. When a person feels threatened
or fearful, it is difficult to focus on a perpetrator’s physical details.
In cases of stalking,
where the victim doesn’t always physically see
the offender, identification can be even harder. When a victim has mistakenly
identified you as the offender, one of the easiest ways to resolve the case is
by providing an alibi – proof that you couldn’t be the offender
because you were somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else.
The Accuser Is Lying
In other cases, many of
which also involve prior legal battles like divorce, child custody, or court
orders requiring limited contact between parties, an alleged victim may lie or
intentionally identify the wrong person as an offender. There can be a number
of reasons why this is the case, but the burden of proof lies with the
prosecutor being able to establish a “course of conduct” under the Texas
statute, which can be difficult if your accuser isn’t telling the truth.
I Didn’t Know He or She Would Be There
Let’s say there has been
a pattern of questionable behavior previously established, but the offender has
reformed from it in whatever way required. Then, they end up in the vicinity of
a previous victim and find themselves in trouble again.
In these types of cases,
the court must examine intent. If the offender did not have reason to know the
victim would be at the same location at the same time, then it could be said
the run-in was unintentional and does not qualify as stalking.
That Doesn’t Prove I’m a Stalker
In Texas, the criminal
act of stalking involves several elements: incidents on more than one occasion
which can establish a “course of conduct,” specific intent to concern or threaten
someone through the series of incidents, and behavior that would cause a reasonable
person to fear property
damage, personal injury (physical, mental, or emotional) or death.
If the prosecution fails
to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt (for instance, the
prosecution didn’t prove a defendant was following the alleged victim because it
is perfectly reasonable that the defendant was merely travelling to his or her
nearby gym), then the case will fail.
I’m Exercising My Constitutional Rights
With the expansion of
anti-stalking laws in response to well-publicized cases where women were
repeatedly followed, and eventually killed, there have also been a myriad
of stalking cases
in which critics feel charges have been misapplied to cases where alleged
offenders are simply exercising their First Amendment rights.
A Texas judge, for instance, issued restraining orders against abortion protestors for stalking in an effort to prevent abortion opposition activity within 500 feet of doctors’ residences. This defense has less-common applications, but it is nevertheless a sound defense in specific situations.
defense strategies are always developed around the particulars of a given
stalking case, and charges are serious. Stalking qualifies as a third-degree
felony, which can carry a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment and $10,000
fine. If the offender has prior convictions on the same or similar charges,
they could face second-degree charges which carries a 20-year prison term
maximum and the same fine.
Do not wait and simply assume things will turn out okay – fight back.
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.