Stalking And Florida Domestic Violence
The average person will usually see domestic violence as a crime involving a physical altercation of some kind. This is very often the case, but a handful of offenses are specified in the relevant statute that qualify as domestic violence without physical contact. One of the most common is the offense of stalking. If you have become involved in a situation where you could be accused of stalking-type behavior, be advised that you may wind up facing the sentence enhancements that come with Florida domestic violence.
Physical Contact Is Not Required
A crime of domestic violence in Florida is defined as any offense that leads to physical injury or death, committed by one “family or household member” against another (not just spouses, but also ex-spouses, co-parents, people related by blood or marriage, and people who are or have been living together as a family unit). However, the statute specifically lists a handful of crimes as examples of domestic violence offenses – among them kidnapping, false imprisonment, and stalking, none of which are necessarily physically violent offenses.
Stalking can fall under the aegis of domestic violence because of the potential mental and emotional damage it can cause, despite it not being a crime involving physical altercations. Florida defines stalking as a pattern of behavior where a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly” follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person. Nothing in this definition implies physical contact, but the effect on the alleged victim is arguably just as significant. Someone may believe they are not committing a crime because there has been no physical touching, but in the case of stalking, this is not necessarily the case.
Potentially Significant Consequences
If you have been engaging in a pattern of behavior that could be perceived as stalking behavior, know that while stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida, it can still have serious, long-lasting implications if you are convicted. Being convicted of a domestic violence offense means that not only do you face the suggested sentence for the specific offense, but also any additional fines, costs, and jail time required by domestic violence law, as well as being required to complete a batterers’ intervention program.
It can be easy for a person to convince themselves that they have not been engaging in stalking behavior, but if you meet the criteria for such an offense, you will almost certainly be found guilty. This is particularly true if you make what is known as a credible threat against your alleged victim – whether you intend it as a ‘joke’ or not, a credible threat will immediately upgrade your alleged offense to aggravated stalking, which carries a minimum of 21 months in prison, with a maximum of 5 years.
Contact A West Palm Beach Domestic Violence Attorney
Stalking is an offense that does not get taken seriously, but it can cause untold suffering for its victims. If you have been charged with stalking or aggravated stalking, contacting a West Palm Beach criminal attorney from the firm of Perlet & Shiner, P.A. can help to make sure your rights are protected. Call our office today at 561-721-0552 to speak to an attorney.