Stalking and Domestic Violence
Usually, people consider stalking to be a phenomenon experienced by celebrities. However, most often, people who are victims of stalking know their stalkers. Stalking is something that does not happen only one time but instead involves a pattern of malicious conduct intended to induce fear in another person. If a stalker has a family or household relationship to the victim of the stalking, they can be held criminally responsible for domestic violence. If you are charged with domestic violence stalking, it is imperative that you retain an experienced Tacoma domestic violence attorney. At Smith & White, we can help you fight back against the accusations or charges.Stalking in the Context of Domestic Violence
Stalking a victim can include following them, leaving unrequested gifts, making unwelcome phone calls or texting, sending unwanted letters or emails, showing up in places where the victim is expected to be without having a reason for doing so aside from bothering the victim, or spreading information about the victim online.
In Washington, if you have a family or household relationship with the person whom you are stalking, you can initially be charged with a misdemeanor. However, if you commit repeat offenses, you may be charged with a class C felony. The victim may decide to file for a protection order against you. In order to establish stalking under RCW 9A.46.110, a prosecutor will need to show beyond a reasonable doubt that you repeatedly and intentionally harassed or followed and caused a reasonable fear, you intended to harass, intimidate, or frighten or had reason to know that what you were doing would cause fear or harassment, you did not have authority under the law to do so, and your conduct did not constitute a felony attempt of a different crime.
Generally, the victim must be fearful that you intend to injure them or their property or another person, and the fear must be of the sort that a reasonable person in the victim’s shoes would also experience, given the circumstances. A defense attorney may be able to question whether the victim’s fear was reasonable. If intent cannot be shown, the prosecutor needs to show that you knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was frightened, intimidated, or harassed, even though that was not your intended effect.
You can be charged with a gross misdemeanor for domestic violence stalking. However, you can be found guilty of a class B felony under certain circumstances, such as when you have previously been convicted of harassment of the same victim or their family or household or someone specifically named in a protection order. You can also be found guilty of a class B felony if your stalking violates a protection order. You can also be found guilty of a class B felony under other circumstances, such as being armed with a deadly weapon while stalking the victim.Defenses to Domestic Violence Stalking
You cannot defend domestic violence stalking charges by saying that you were not given concrete notice that the victim did not want you to follow him or her. Similarly, it is not necessarily a defense to claim that you did not intend to harass, intimidate, or frighten the victim if that was the impact that your actions had. If you keep trying to contact or follow a household or family member after he or she gives you actual notice of not wanting to be followed or contacted, this is prima facie evidence that you intended to harass or intimidate that person. Contact in this context can include sending an email. However, you may have a defense if you were a licensed private investigator acting within what your license allows you to do.Cyberstalking
You can be charged with domestic violence cyberstalking under section 9.61.260 if you, with the intent to torment, embarrass, harass, or intimidate a family or household member, electronically communicate with that person by using lewd language or electronically communicate with them repeatedly, among other circumstances. Cyberstalking is usually a gross misdemeanor, but it can be charged as a class C felony.Discuss Your Situation With a Domestic Violence Attorney in Tacoma
If you were charged with domestic violence stalking in Washington, you should consult an experienced attorney. At Smith & White, we represent defendants in the Tacoma area and elsewhere in Pierce, King, Kitsap, and Thurston Counties. Contact us at (253) 203-1645 or through our online form.