Fort Worth Stalking Lawyer
If you are under investigation or have been arrested and charged with the crime of Stalking, it is critical that you contact an aggressive and experienced Fort Worth criminal attorney that will work tirelessly to represent you and work to negotiate a dismissal of your case to protect your clean record.
A conviction for Stalking can have serious long-term financial and personal consequences. Because stalking charges are characterized as a felony crime in Texas, receiving a conviction will result in a termination of your voting rights and your right to own, purchase, or possess firearms. Additionally, becoming a convicted felon severely limits your ability to obtain meaningful employment. It is critical to resolve your stalking charge in a way that avoids a felony conviction.
What Is Considered Stalking In The State Of Texas?
According to Texas Penal Code, Section 42.072, the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office will be required to prove the following elements of Stalking beyond a reasonable doubt:
A person commits the offense of Stalking if the person, on more than one occasion and pursuant to the same scheme or course of conduct that is directed specifically at another person, knowingly engages in conduct that:
- the actor knows or reasonably believes the other person will regard as threatening:
- bodily injury or death for the other person;
- bodily injury or death for a member of the other person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship; or
- that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property;
- causes the other person, a member of the other person’s family or household, or an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or fear that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property; and
- would cause a reasonable person to fear:
- bodily injury or death for himself or herself;
- bodily injury or death for a member of the person’s family or household or for an individual with whom the person has a dating relationship; or
- that an offense will be committed against the person’s property.
If you notice from the language of the statute, Stalking requires a pattern of behavior to be exhibited in order to be convicted. This usually requires multiple physical acts or contacts with an individual to establish probable cause.
For example, we have seen stalking cases where a boyfriend and girlfriend break up and the boyfriend becomes terribly upset. The boyfriend repeatedly comes by the girlfriend’s house trying to talk her into staying together. The girlfriend has made it clear she no longer wants the contact, and any future contact would be unwelcomed. However, the boyfriend keeps dropping by unexpectedly saying he does not think he can live without her, and he will do whatever it takes for them to stay together. This starts to make the girlfriend upset and cause fear of bodily injury or death.
Texas stalking laws make it clear that the crime of stalking can be shown if a person exhibits a pattern of behavior that “causes the other person, a member of the other person’s family or household, or an individual with whom the other person has a dating relationship to be placed in fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against the other person’s property, or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.”
What Is The Penalty For Stalking In Texas?
The criminal offense of Stalking is classified as a felony of the third degree. Under the Texas Penal Code, a third-degree felony is punishable by a term in a Texas prison of not more than 10 years but not less than 2 years.
However, the crime of stalking can be classified as a second degree felony if you have been previously convicted of stalking or for an offense under any of the following laws that contains elements that are substantially similar to the elements of an offense under this section: the laws of another state; the laws of a federally recognized Indian tribe; the laws of a territory of the United States; or federal law.
Under the Texas Penal Code, a second-degree felony is punishable by a term in a Texas prison of not more than 20 years but not less than 2 years and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
As you can see from the possible range of punishment required upon a conviction, Stalking is a serious criminal case that must be vigorously defended to protect your freedom and future.
Defenses To Stalking In Texas
If you have been arrested for stalking in Fort Worth, Texas or a surrounding city in Tarrant County, Texas, it is critical to retain the best stalking attorney to protect your freedom and your future. Part of the decision you will make in partnering with a criminal attorney will be dictated by their knowledge and experience in developing successful defense strategies to the crime of stalking. Let us examine a few defenses to the crime of stalking we have encountered at The Hampton Law Firm:
Inability To Prove A Pattern Of Behavior
In order to sustain a conviction for stalking, a prosecutor must provide evidence establishing proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you engaged in a pattern of behavior that you knew or should have known would have made the alleged victim feel threatened or in fear for their life. Failure to prove this element of the crime of stalking beyond a reasonable doubt will result in a not guilty verdict at a jury trial.
For example: we represented a client who was infatuated with a girl in his medical school class. He did not have the courage to speak to her at class, so he drove by the house she was living at and decided to park his car and approach the door. He initially went to the front door and knocked on the door and no one answered. He thought her heard noise around the back, so he walked to the accessible area in the backyard and walked up to the porch door and grabbed the door handle. About that time, the girl looked through the glass and saw our client standing there looking up at her. She freaked out and immediately called the police and claimed she as in fear for her life because of his actions. The police then arrested our client for the crime of stalking.
Is there sufficient evidence to establish his guilt for the crime? NO! There were many valid defenses available to our client. In this situation, there was not a pattern of behavior involved at all. This was a single incident of conduct that was misinterpreted by the alleged victim. As such, the crime of stalking could not be established.
How did we get the stalking charge dismissed? In this situation, we took advantage of the grand jury process. Every felony in the State of Texas must be presented to a grand jury for indictment. If your criminal defense attorney does not act aggressively and proactively at the beginning of the case, the grand jury will only hear the prosecution’s side of the case. However, an experienced criminal attorney can take the favorable evidence of your case and craft an evidence packet to get the case no billed and dismissed. That is exactly what we did with this client’s situation.
A Reasonable Person Would Not Believe The Conduct Was Threatening
Would a reasonable person believe that the questionable conduct was threatening? The State of Texas must prove that the conduct in question that is the basis of the stalking charge is objectionably threatening in nature. Just because the alleged victim claims they felt threatened, the subjective opinion of the victim is not sufficient to prove the crime of stalking.
For example: we represented a client who had been charged with stalking for sending flowers to his girlfriend. She had broken up with him and he was trying to let her know he still cared deeply for her. He sent her a series of flowers over a weeklong period with little notes that accompanied the flowers. The alleged victim claimed that each set of notes was a little more concerning to her. Finally, she claimed that by the final note, she was in fear for her life. The notes all said small statements like, “missing you,” “life only matters when you are in it,” etc. Now, these notes might sound desperate but are they threatening? It is true that under Texas stalking laws, the threats can be actual or implied. However, if an alleged victim is claiming the threat is implied, it must meet the reasonable person or objective standard. This case presented another example of where we were able to make a presentation to a grand jury to show that each note was nothing more than the desperate attempt of a broken heart to patch up a relationship. The grand jury agreed with us that the notes were not objectively threatening. As a result, they rejected the charge and issued a no bill. A no bill provided our client the opportunity to have the arrest and charge expunged from his criminal record.
The Conduct Was Harassment, Not Stalking
There is a fine line between the felony crime of stalking and the misdemeanor crime of harassment. It is common for overzealous detectives to arrest and charge someone for stalking when it should have been a harassment case. Let us take a minute to examine the difference.
Under Texas criminal law, harassment is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by a jail sentence of up to 180 days and up to a $2,000 fine. In order to prove the crime of harassment beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutor must show that the conduct or communication was performed in a manner reasonably likely to harass, annoy or alarm the alleged victim. Notice, there is not mention of threatening or placing someone in fear of serious bodily injury or death.
The biggest frustration is when an alleged victim exaggerates their fear, and an overzealous detective wants to claim harassing conduct should be elevated to stalking because of an implied threat. In situations where there is repeated conduct that takes place but there is reasonable doubt as to whether it is threatening in nature, the best stalking attorneys know that this provides an opportunity to present a defense to possible have a third-degree stalking charge reduced to a Class B misdemeanor harassment. Although our goal at The Hampton Law Firm is to get every case dismissed, it is much easier to get a misdemeanor case dismissed than a felony. It is critical to minimize your charge as quickly as possible.
If you have been arrested and charged with Stalking, it is critical that you take immediate steps to prevent this criminal allegation from limiting your future employment opportunities and ruining your good reputation. In order to ensure the best result for your case, you must hire a team of criminal defense attorneys who will thoroughly explain your legal rights available to you and fight to keep this charge off of your criminal record.
At The Hampton Law Firm, our team of former prosecutors with over 85 years of criminal law experience and over 550 criminal jury trials will aggressively fight to keep this criminal allegation off of your criminal record and do everything within our power to negotiate a dismissal of your Stalking case.
As a former felony prosecutor in Tarrant County, Texas, I have extensive experience working in the courts of Tarrant County and will work to provide you with as many options as possible to have your case dismissed and expunged from your criminal record.
Call The Hampton Law Firm now for a free consultation and an opportunity to speak to me about the facts of your case and the options you have under Texas law. Call Jeff Hampton at The Hampton Law Firm at 817-826-9905.