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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Criminal Defense / Does Stalking Count As Domestic Violence?

Does Stalking Count As Domestic Violence?


Domestic violence is an ‘umbrella’ of sorts in Florida, encompassing any crime that causes physical injury or death to a “family or household member” of the alleged perpetrator. Stalking is a crime that is normally charged as a first-degree misdemeanor, but aggravating factors can bump it up to a third-degree felony, and can place it squarely under the umbrella of domestic violence even if no actual physical injury occurred.

Specific Criteria For The Crime

Florida law defines stalking as a situation where a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly” follows, harasses, or cyberstalks a person. The offense will be charged as ‘aggravated’ stalking (a felony charge) if one of four criteria are also true:

  • A credible threat has been made to the victim;
  • The alleged victim is a minor;
  • The defendant has a previous record of sex offenses; and/or
  • The defendant has breached an injunction for protection which requires them to stay away from the alleged victim.

In terms of threats, it is important to keep in mind that while a prosecutor must be able to establish that the defendant had the ability to carry out their alleged threats, they need not show that the defendant actually intended to carry them out. Doing so would be too high a threshold to meet in many cases, which might lead to further victimization.

The Stakes Are High

One potentially problematic trend for many defendants in recent years is that far too many treat charges under the domestic violence umbrella, like stalking or assault, as merely consequences of a ‘messy divorce’ or ‘bad breakup.’ In reality, even misdemeanor convictions can result in jail time, and felony charges can carry a minimum of five years in prison, depending on the specific offense.

If you have been charged with this type of offense, an attorney can be invaluable to you, both in terms of helping you navigate the legal process, but also potentially in seeking a plea-bargain. Being convicted of a domestic violence offense in Florida means that it will stay on your record, as domestic violence convictions cannot be expunged. Depending on your case, it may be possible to plead to a lesser charge.

Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney

Stalking is a crime that many do not know they have committed, but if you face these charges, the potential consequences are very real. A West Palm Beach criminal attorney from Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can support you as you go through the legal process. Call our office today at (561) 721-0552 to speak to an attorney.



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