Is Stalking A Crime Of Domestic Violence?
When the average person thinks of domestic violence, they think of physical altercations that end in assault, battery, or even homicide charges. However, there are several other crimes that Florida law specifically characterizes as potential crimes of domestic violence. Among them is the offense of stalking, which can be a feature in a continued pattern of mistreatment and violence against the alleged victim. That said, if you have been charged with stalking, but you lacked the intent to do so, you may have a chance at establishing your innocence.
Definitions Are Wide
Florida law defines domestic violence as one of several crimes committed by a family or household member – including stalking and aggravated stalking – that result in death or injury to another family or household member. In turn, a “family or household member” is a spouse, former spouse, co-parent, relative by blood or marriage, and/or someone who has resided with you as a family (or is currently doing so).
Stalking under Florida law is defined as a pattern of willful, malicious, and repeated behavior that results in “following, harassing, or cyberstalking” a person; it is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. If someone engages in this behavior while making a credible threat of violence, or if the alleged victim is under the age of 16 years old, the charge will be aggravated stalking, which is a felony. If someone is convicted of stalking, domestic violence will act as a sentence enhancement of sorts, leading to a stiffer sentence and higher fines.
Affirmative Defenses Exist
If you have been charged with stalking or cyberstalking, the thing you must be aware of above all else is that it is a specific intent crime. This means that in order to be convicted of that offense, a person must have intended to act in the way they did, and commit the harm they committed. Thus, if your attorney is able to show that you lacked any intent to stalk or harm your alleged victim, the prosecution will not be able to establish your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Another potential affirmative defense is to argue that you had a legitimate purpose for being in the area or otherwise coming into contact with the alleged victim. For example, if your job sends you to a work site near your alleged victim’s home, you can argue plausibly that you had no intent to stalk the victim; rather, your presence in the area is coincidental. This argument also goes back to a lack of intent to harm the alleged victim, without which you cannot be convicted.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Being charged with any crime of domestic violence can be terrifying, particularly if you lacked any intent to actually commit an offense. If you have been charged with stalking, the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys from the firm of Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. can help ensure your rights are protected. Contact our offices today to speak to an attorney.