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Representing New Yorkers Charged with Stalking-Related Offenses
Facing stalking charges can be an incredibly frightening and stressful experience. The uncertainty surrounding the legal process and the potential consequences of a conviction may leave you feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed. However, it’s important to remember that just because you’ve been charged doesn’t mean you’ll be convicted and an experienced attorney can help you fight to get the best possible outcome for your case.
Stalking is a crime under New York Penal Law that involves engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person that causes fear or significant distress. Penalties can range from fines and community service to years of imprisonment, depending on the degree of the offense.
As a former prosecutor, Attorney Mehdi Essmidi has the insight and experience to help you navigate the complex legal process. Do not wait to get started on your defense. With your future at stake, now is the time to act. Contact us for a free consultation to discuss your legal options, the potential penalties you face, and how to best protect your rights and freedom.
Understanding Stalking Charges
When a person engages in a persistent and unwanted pattern of harassing or threatening behavior towards another person, he or she could end up facing stalking charges. This behavior often leads the victim to fear for their personal safety, experience emotional distress, or suffer material harm to their emotional health, property, or livelihood.
Examples of conduct that might be considered stalking include, but are not limited to, repeatedly following, initiating contact, monitoring someone’s whereabouts, or engaging in threatening behavior towards someone.
New York Penal Law recognizes four different degrees of stalking, each with specific criteria and corresponding penalties. It’s essential to recognize that even minor incidents can become more serious if they are repetitive and escalate over time. Furthermore, stalking can be interconnected with other crimes, such as unlawful imprisonment, harassment, criminal sexual act, or physical harm to the victim or their property.
Degrees of Stalking Offenses in New York Penal Code
The New York Penal Code divides stalking offenses into four degrees, with varying severity and corresponding penalties. Being aware of these distinctions can help you better understand the specific allegations you may be facing and the potential consequences.
Stalking in the Fourth Degree § 120.45
Stalking in the fourth degree occurs when one intentionally and without valid reason targets a specific individual, leading to:
- Reasonable fear for their safety, health, property, or that of close associates;
- Harm to the person’s mental or emotional well-being, especially after being clearly told to stop certain actions, such as following or communicating;
- Concerns about threats to their job or business, particularly when the offender contacts or shows up at the workplace after being told not to. Notably, “following” includes unauthorized GPS tracking.
This offense is a Class B misdemeanor.
Stalking in the Third Degree § 120.50
Stalking in the third degree is committed when an individual:
- Stalks three or more people on separate occasions under section 120.45, with no prior convictions for these actions;
- Stalks someone as per section 120.45 after a conviction in the last ten years for a specified crime, where the current victim or their family was also the victim in the previous crime;
- Intends to harass, annoy, or alarm a person, causing them to fear physical harm, a sex offense, kidnapping, imprisonment, or death to them or their family; or
- Commits a fourth-degree stalking and has a prior conviction for the same within the last ten years.
This offense is classified as a Class A misdemeanor.
Stalking in the Second Degree § 120.55
A person commits stalking in the second degree when:
- They stalk as per section 120.50, subdivision three and, during the offense:
- Display or possess and threaten with various weapons, including firearms, knives, or other deadly instruments; or
- Show something resembling a firearm;
- They stalk according to section 120.50, subdivision three, after a conviction in the last five years for a specific crime where the current victim or their family was also the prior victim;
- They commit fourth-degree stalking after a prior conviction of third-degree stalking per section 120.50, subdivision four;
- Being 21 or older, they repeatedly follow or attempt to intimidate a person under 14, making them fear physical harm or death;
- They stalk ten or more individuals on separate occasions as defined in section 120.50, subdivision three, without prior convictions for these actions.
This offense is classified as a Class E felony.
Stalking in the First Degree § 120.60
A person commits stalking in the first degree when they engage in third-degree stalking as per section 120.50, subdivision three, or second-degree stalking as outlined in section 120.55, and during this:
- They either intentionally or recklessly cause physical harm to the victim; or
- They commit a Class A misdemeanor as described in article 130 or a Class E or D felony as defined in sections 130.25, 130.40, 130.85, 130.30, or 130.45.
This offense is classified as a Class D felony.
Consequences of a Stalking Conviction
A stalking conviction can have far-reaching and lasting effects on your life, which is why it’s essential to take these charges seriously and seek experienced legal representation. The consequences of a conviction may include:
Having a stalking conviction on your record could create obstacles when pursuing future job opportunities, housing, or education. It may also affect your immigration status if you are not a U.S. citizen.
Fines and Restitution
Depending on the degree of the stalking charge, a conviction may result in substantial fines. Additionally, you may be responsible for paying restitution to the victim for any damages incurred.
Convictions for stalking offenses can lead to jail or state prison sentences, which can range from a few months to many years, depending on the severity of the charge.
Probation or Community Service
Stalking convictions may also result in mandatory probation or community service requirements. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in further legal consequences.
Courts may issue orders of protection or restraining orders against those convicted of stalking. Violating such orders can result in additional criminal charges.
Emotional and Social Consequences
A stalking conviction can take a toll on your mental well-being, personal relationships, and reputation in your community.
Building a Strong Defense Against Stalking Charges
Every stalking case is unique, and developing an effective defense strategy requires an in-depth understanding of the situation and the intricacies of New York Penal Law. An experienced New York City stalking lawyer will examine your case thoroughly, evaluating the evidence and circumstances to determine the best path forward.
Possible defenses against stalking charges may include:
If the evidence fails to prove the elements of the stalking offense, or if there are inconsistencies in the alleged victim’s claims, your lawyer may argue that the charges should be dismissed or reduced.
In some cases, the alleged stalker may be incorrectly identified, which might lead to the dismissal or reduction of charges.
Lack of Intent or Legitimate Purpose
If your conduct stemmed from a legitimate purpose or lacked the intent to cause fear, distress, or harm, your lawyer could attempt to have the charges dismissed or reduced.
If police or prosecutors violated your constitutional rights during the investigation or arrest process, evidence obtained in violation of your rights may be inadmissible, potentially weakening the prosecution’s case.
Orders of Protection in Stalking Cases
In stalking cases, courts often issue orders of protection to safeguard the alleged victim from potential harm or additional harassment. These orders can place various restrictions on the individual facing stalking charges, such as:
- Prohibiting any communication with the alleged victim or their immediate family members, including phone calls, emails, texts, and social media interactions
- Maintaining a specified distance from the alleged victim’s home, workplace, school, or other designated locations
- Restricting access to a shared residence or shared custody of children
- Temporary surrender of any owned firearms
Violation of an order of protection can result in additional criminal charges, fines, and potential incarceration.
Choosing the Right New York City Stalking Lawyer
Your choice of a legal representative can significantly influence the outcome of your stalking case. A qualified New York City stalking lawyer should have extensive experience and in-depth knowledge of the New York Penal Law and the complexities of stalking charges. They should prioritize looking after your rights and best interests while developing a tailored strategy specific to your situation.
Attorney Mehdi Essmidi, a former prosecutor, is committed to aggressively defending clients facing stalking charges. His hands-on approach ensures the personalized attention your case deserves to achieve the best possible outcome in this challenging situation.
Contact Us for a Free Consultation
If you face stalking charges in New York City, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance. Contact The Law Offices of Mehdi Essmidi P.L.L.C. today to schedule a free consultation with our dedicated and experienced New York City stalking attorney. We will guide you through the legal process, answer your questions, and work tirelessly to protect your rights and freedom.