Yes. Stalking is typically charged as a felony, which means defendants can face substantial time in prison if convicted. Please contact Attorney Tad Nelson if you face stalking charges. One of our Houston criminal defense attorneys can review the surrounding facts and see if the charge is warranted. Sometimes, prosecutors overcharge a person when the facts of the case don’t really qualify as stalking.
Summary of the Law on Stalking
You can find the law at Section 42.072 of the Texas Penal Code. This law covers a wide range of behavior, but it defines stalking as a course of conduct that threatens a person or subjects the victim to torment, embarrassment, abuse, or offense. Stalking also includes threatening someone’s family or damage to their property.
There are some common examples of stalking:
- Following someone around town to the point that they reasonably believe they are about to be harmed.
- Sending multiple threats via text or social media threatening to harm someone’s family member.
- Making harassing phone calls where you embarrass the person by using sexual language.
- Threatening to burn down someone’s building and then being seen driving past the building on multiple occasions.
- Making multiple anonymous phone calls simply to harass a person.
As you can see, some stalking behavior threatens a person’s physical safety, but the law also covers conduct that is merely annoying or offensive.
Penalties for Stalking
Generally, stalking is a third-degree felony, which can send you to prison for 2-10 years and result in a $10,000 fine.
However, if you have a previous stalking conviction—either in Texas or in another state—then your charges get upgraded to a second-degree felony. You might end up in prison for up to 20 years.
If you stalk a family member, they might also get a domestic violence restraining order, which would prevent you from contacting them. Intentional violation of the restraining order could also carry other penalties. One stalking incident can definitely snowball.
What is the Difference Between Stalking and Harassment?
Harassment can qualify as stalking. Section 42.07 of the Penal Code lists 7 behaviors that qualify as harassment.
The key difference is that stalking is repeated conduct. Threatening a person once to harm them is harassment. But if you make multiple threats, or your threat is coupled with conduct a person would interpret as threatening (like circling their house at all hours in your car), then you have committed stalking.
Harassment is a lesser offense and is typically charged as a Class A or B misdemeanor, depending on your criminal history.
Do You Defend People Accused of Stalking?
Yes. Because the stalking law covers a wide variety of behavior, these are hard charges to defend. One common defense is mistaken identity. That is an effective defense when your computer or cell phone was used to harass someone. You might claim that someone else used your electronic communication device without your consent or knowledge.
Contact Tad Nelson
Our Houston criminal defense attorneys can handle your criminal case and strive to get charges reduced or dropped altogether. Call to schedule a free consultation.