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The Difference Between Fanaticism and Stalking

By Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney on May 24, 2022

The offense of stalking is defined by California Penal Code Section 646.9 PC as following, harassing, and threatening someone to the extent where the target becomes concerned for their safety. Both misdemeanors and felonies are possible charges for stalking. Up to 5 years in jail or prison may be imposed as punishment for a conviction.

The specific definition under PC 646.9(a) states that “any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person, and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family, is guilty of the crime of stalking…”

If you have been charged with stalking, reach out to Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP. Our team of experienced Los Angeles stalking defense attorneys can help you navigate the system, get the charges dismissed or reduced, and ensure that your rights are protected.

Penalties for Stalking in California

In California, stalking is considered a wobbler offense. This means that it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.

If convicted of a misdemeanor, the following penalties apply: misdemeanor (or summary) probation or up to a year in county prison.

If proven to be a felony, the following penalties apply: either felony (or official) probation or up to five years in state prison.

In addition to the aforementioned criminal consequences, a stalker who has been found guilty could face civil action from the putative victim.

Examples of Stalking

Stalking is defined as a pattern of unwanted and repeated attention, harassment, contact, or any other course of conduct directed at a specific person that would cause a reasonable person to feel fear.

Examples of stalking include:

  • Repeatedly showing up at their workplace, home, or place of business,
  • Calling them repeatedly after they’ve asked you to stop,
  • Sending them unwanted gifts or letters (including emails), or
  • Sending them messages through social media such as Facebook Messenger or Twitter DMs.

Defenses Against Stalking Charges

If you have been accused of stalking, it is important to understand the available defenses against these charges;

  • There was no intent to harass, annoy, or alarm the victim,
  • There was no credible threat,
  • The course of conduct was for a legitimate purpose, and
  • The purported victim made up a narrative.

The Difference Between Stalking and Constitutionally Protected Free Speech

A lot of people don’t realize that stalking and constitutionally defensible free speech can look similar.

The key difference is intent. Stalkers are malicious while free speech activists are defending their right to speak out against the government and its policies. Remember that engaging in a legally protected action does not constitute stalking. An accused person is not in violation of this law, for instance, if they were exercising their right to free speech.

For example, when a person posts a video of themselves on YouTube calling for the overthrow of the government, they’re engaging in constitutionally protected free speech. However, if they follow the same person around for weeks at a time and make it clear that they’re angry with them, this is considered stalking.

The Difference Between Fanaticism and Stalking

Fanaticism and stalking have many similarities. Both are fixated on a person or thing. However, several distinctions between the two can be identified. For example, stalking is usually done for personal gratification or a desire to follow or watch a person or group to the point of obsession. Fanaticism is an intense devotion to a cause or idea, usually motivated by political or religious beliefs. The key difference is that the perpetrator of stalking is breaking the law, whereas a fanatic may not be.

Have a Criminal Defense Lawyer at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP on Your Side

If you’ve been charged with stalking or harassment, it’s important that you get in touch with an experienced defense attorney who understands how these charges work and what kind of evidence prosecutors will use against you. This foreknowledge will allow you to prepare an effective defense strategy before your trial begins.

If you need assistance figuring out how to move forward with your application process or if you have any questions about what lies ahead for you in this respect, don’t hesitate to call the Los Angeles criminal lawyers at Werksman Jackson & Quinn LLP at (213) 688-0460.

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Posted in: Criminal Defense