Stalking is a pretty common criminal offense. About 15% of women and 6% of men in the U.S. have been victims of stalking. Law enforcement officers take reports of stalking seriously, even though it occurs frequently, because of previous stalking experiences associated with extreme violence.
Usually, the perpetrators are people the victim knows, such as former or current romantic partners. You may be at risk of being accused of stalking by a spiteful ex-boyfriend/girlfriend or former spouse, or disgruntled friend. Although the allegations may be unfounded, you could be convicted of an offense you did not commit.
Worrying about what is next is natural if you have been arrested for stalking. Stalking is a serious offense punishable by a jail term, fine, or both. Do not ignore the allegations against you or take matters into your hands. Also, do not try to defend yourself before the police or confront the person who has laid complaints against you. Learn what happens if you don’t talk to a detective here.
Instead, you should hire a skilled criminal defense attorney. Our legal team at Blank Law, PC is ready to assist you and fight for the best outcome in your case. We can build an aggressive defense to prevent a stalking conviction once you create an attorney-client relationship with us.
Stalking is a negative pattern of behavior that could cause anxiety or reasonable fear in the person experiencing it. According to MCL 750.411h, stalking is a deliberate course of conduct that involves harassing someone repeatedly or continuously in a way that makes the alleged victim feel threatened, terrified, or intimidated.
Harassment in this context refers to actions taken against another person, including, but not limited to, persistent unwanted or non-consensual contact that would reasonably cause emotional distress to a reasonable person. However, actions causing the victim distress, which are protected by the constitution or are carried out for a legal reason, are not considered harassment under Michigan stalking laws.
Before an action is classified as stalking behavior in Michigan, the stalking laws also provide that the perpetrator must have had their conduct directed at a specific act. When it involves multiple actions, such conduct must demonstrate a continuity of purpose as a whole to be regarded as stalking.
Examples of stalking offenses include:
- Threatening to injure the victim or their loved ones
- Following or consistently hanging around the alleged victim
- Delivering or putting an object on the property leased, occupied, or owned by the victim
- Confronting the victim on private or public property
- Contacting the victim via phone calls
- Trespassing on the complainant’s property
If you face a stalking charge, this is when you need to call a lawyer immediately. Although stalking is a misdemeanor, a conviction can negatively affect your life and relationships.
What is Aggravated Stalking?
When stalking occurs in aggravating circumstances, it is seen as aggravated stalking. Aggravated stalking is a serious felony offense with a harsher penalty.
Examples of such aggravating circumstances include:
- The defendant has been previously convicted of an offense under the Michigan stalking laws (MCL 750.411h), or the defendant has once stalked the same victim
- The defendant’s actions violated a restraining order served on the defendant
- One of the defendant’s actions violated a court’s injunction
- The particular offense involves communicating credible threats to the victim, their family member, or anyone living in the same house with them
- One of the defendant’s actions violated a release on bond, parole, probation, pretrial, or pending trial conditions
Is Cyberstalking a Crime?
Cyberstalking is a pretty new offense. It refers to any stalking behavior that occurs on the internet. Therefore, a person commits cyberstalking when they use the internet to start or continue unwanted contact with somebody else.
It is a form of online harassment that can take the form of social media posts, text messages, or emails directed at a specific person. Cyberstalking violates the harassment law.
Anyone who sends a message to another person through a medium of communication, such as a computer, computer system, computer network, computer program, or the internet, without the other person’s authorization is breaking MCL 750.411s if any of these scenarios apply:
- The defendant knew that posting such a message without the complainant’s consent would lead to unwanted contact with the complainant
- At the time of posting the message, the defendant wanted the complainant to feel molested, harassed, intimated, or scared
- Posting such a message would make a reasonable person feel intimated, scared, harassed, or terrorized
- The alleged complainant felt harassed, terrorized, molested, intimidated, or frightened because of such a message
Can I Be Charged with Stalking if I Don’t Hurt Anyone or Trespass?
You can be arrested and charged with stalking even if you do not cause bodily injury to the complainant or trespass on their property. The emotions that a pattern of behavior or conduct arouses in the complainant determine if an action would be considered stalking. For example, although they don’t result in bodily injury, threats made via text, email, or phone are seen as stalking.
Can I Be Convicted of Stalking Based on the Other Person’s Testimony?
You may face a stalking charge based on the sole testimony of the complainant. The prosecution does not require further testimony or evidence if the complainant’s testimony is reasonably persuasive. As a result, if the prosecution successfully proves your guilt, you could also be convicted and punished.
Therefore, you need to obtain legal representation if you have been arrested for stalking. It would help if you had guidance from experienced criminal defense attorneys who understand the criminal justice system and can help you beat the criminal charges you face.
Penalties for Stalking
Stalking is considered a severe offense under Michigan law, as it can result in the commission of more offenses, such as domestic violence, sexual assault, or even murder. Most cases are usually treated as misdemeanor stalking crimes, especially if the perpetrator is a first-time offender.
However, it may be regarded as a felony when it occurs repeatedly or involves other aggravating circumstances. In some states, it may be classified as a third degree felony. A felony conviction attracts severe punishment that can affect your life for a long time.
Anyone guilty of stalking under Michigan laws may be subjected to a misdemeanor or felony conviction. However, the severity of the penalty attached to the offense depends on the complainant’s age.
Suppose the victim is under 18 and the defendant is older by five or more years. In that case, the offense is a felony punishable by a maximum prison sentence of up to five years, or a fine of up to $10,000, or both. However, if the complainant is an adult, the stalking charge is a misdemeanor stalking offense punishable by a maximum sentence of one year at a county jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, or both.
Aggravated stalking is a felony punishable by a maximum 5-year sentence, a fine not exceeding $10,000, or both. However, if the victim is a minor below 18, the maximum penalty is a 10-year prison sentence, a $15,000 fine, or both.
Cyberstalking is a felony punishable by a prison sentence not exceeding two years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Where it occurs under aggravating circumstances, the penalty is a prison sentence of not more than five years, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both.
In addition, the court may impose a restraining order on the perpetrator. Convicted offenders may also be subjected to probation for a maximum term of five years. The court may also impose any of the following probation conditions:
- Refraining from harassing the complainant during the time of probation
- Avoiding all forms of communication with the complainant while on probation
- Undergoing a test to evaluate whether the defendant requires social, psychological, or medical counseling
Suppose it is determined that the person needs any of these forms of counseling. In that case, the court may order that person to pay for the necessary counseling.
You Need an Aggressive Defense to Beat Stalking Charges
Even though stalking is a serious crime in Michigan, you have a right to defend yourself at trial. You can build a solid defense with the help of an experienced defense lawyer that could lessen the sentence or get the charges dropped. Learn what to look for in a criminal defense lawyer here.
When you are arrested or accused of stalking, you should get the services of an expert attorney. Do not just sit around waiting for the allegations to go away. Contact a lawyer immediately and get to work on building an aggressive defense.
Hire Blank Law, PC
Hire Attorney Nicole Blank Becker if you are charged with stalking in Michigan. Nicole is a seasoned defense lawyer with a unique advantage as a former prosecutor. She has successfully represented several defendants in stalking cases to ensure the best outcomes. She is also ready to help with your case.
Contact her at (248) 515–6583 or fill out our online form for a Michigan criminal defense attorney free consultation.