What Counts as Stalking in California?
In healthy relationships, there is an equal amount of love and adoration from both parties involved. Unfortunately, not every relationship is a healthy one. There are a lot of one-sided relationships out there that are not good for either parties involved. What can be incredibly upsetting, and even scary, is when a person is way more into a person than that person is in to them.
In extreme cases, the person who is infatuated with the other could become a stalker. Having a stalker can be truly terrifying and can cause a person fear for their own safety. Due to this fact, the act of stalking someone is illegal here in the state of California. Anyone caught stalking another person will face legal consequences.
Being stalked by someone can be very upsetting, even traumatizing, which is why it is illegal to stalk someone in California. Penal Code (PC) 646.9 defines stalking as:
“Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.”
That is a whole lot of legal speak that can be a bit confusing, so let’s break it down a little bit.
- Willfully – For something to be considered stalking, a person has to willfully choose to commit the act, which means he or she did it one purpose.
- Maliciously – Maliciously means that the person intentionally did a wrongful act with the intent of disturbing, annoying, or injuring the other person.
- Harassment – Harassment means acting in a way that annoys, alarms, torments, or terrorizes another individual.
- Credible Threat – A credible threat is one that the threatened individual would have reason to believe the person could carry out, and therefore causes the victim to fear for their safety, or the safety of their immediate family. The threat can be made verbally, in writing, or electronically.
- Immediate Family – Means spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, or any person who lives in the same house as the person in question.
Knowing all of that helps one understand the legal definition of stalking. Basically, if a person knowingly bothers another individual to the point where they begin to fear for the safety of themselves or their loved ones, that person is guilty of stalking in California.
The Penalties for Stalking
Under PC 646.9, stalking is a wobbler offense. This means that anyone found guilty of the crime of stalking can face either misdemeanor or felony charges. The severity of the charges is dependent on the facts of each particular case. Stalking charges will always be charged as a felony if the accused has been charged with stalking before, even if it was a different person, or if the stalker violated a restraining order.
With misdemeanor charges, a person faces:
- Up to 1 year in jail.
- A max fine of $1,000.
- Misdemeanor probation.
With felony charges, a person faces:
- Up to 5 years in state prison.
- A max fine of $1,000.
- Felony probation.
On top of these charges, the victim of the stalking can also sue the stalker for damages due to the stalking. This can add up to a lot more money that the accused would have to pay.
Felony stalking charges can also negatively affect a person’s immigration status.
Everyone Just Wants to Be Safe
Everyone just wants to feel safe, and being constantly followed and harassed can be very disturbing. Being stalked can cause a person to worry all day, every day. Not just for their own safety, but for the safety of the people that they care about most. This constant worrying is bad for a person health, both mental and physical. This is why the act of stalking is illegal in California.
If a person is ever being harassed like this, they need to contact their local authorities. Doing so can get the stalker arrested and allow the person to feel safe once again.
What do you think of California’s stalking definition and law? Are the consequences of the crime fair, too much, or too little? Let us know what you think in the comments down below.