Stalking can be a felony or a gross misdemeanor in Washington State. It is similar to the charge of harassment and it is not uncommon for both charges to be filed.
Stalking charges are frequently the result of a misunderstanding or a vindictive accuser. WA State law does not require the accuser to tell you that your behavior is threatening or unwanted.
If you have a current or past romantic relationship with the accuser, a domestic relationship will be established and the crime will have a domestic violence designation (even without accusations of physical violence).
Stalking can be difficult to prove, but the stakes are high. If there is evidence of the below circumstances, gross misdemeanor criminal charges (punishable by up to 364 days in jail and a $5000 fine) will be filed:
- The harassment or following was intentional and occurred more than one time AND
- The victim had a reasonable fear that the defendant intended to injure them or damage their property AND
- The defendant knew or should have known that their behavior would create fear, intimidation or harassment, even if this was not their intent.
Class C felony stalking charges (punishable by up to 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine) will be filed if the above conditions are met and the following applies:
- There has been a prior conviction for harassing the victim or a member of the victim’s family or household.
- The stalking violates a protection order that protects the victim.
- The defendant has a prior conviction for stalking another person.
- The defendant was in possession of a deadly weapon during the stalking.
- The victim’s job is related to the legal system and the stalking was done in retaliation for an act done while in the official capacity of job duties.
- The victim is a witness in a court proceeding and the stalking was done in retaliation for witness testimony.
After the Arrest
If you are accused of stalking, it is a good idea to stop all contact and communication with the accuser. Voicemail, text messages, email, and other types of communication can be easily taken out of context and used against you in court. Additionally, a No Contact Order is normally issued by the court as a condition of release after an arrest for stalking.
If the accuser changes their mind and no longer wants the defendant to be prosecuted, the prosecutor will likely not drop the charges. Additionally, the state can require witnesses to testify with a court order.
It is important that you exercise your right to remain silent by not talking to the police or investigators. A criminal defense attorney should be contacted immediately. The sooner your attorney can begin negotiations, the more likely it is that you can avoid jail time and other unpleasant circumstances that result from the criminal justice system.
Avoiding a Conviction
The evidence used to prosecute stalking charges can almost always be challenged. A skilled criminal lawyer can make it difficult for the state to prove that you repeatedly followed or harassed the accuser.
Beckwith DV Law fights stalking and domestic violence accusations in King, Pierce, Thurston, & Snohomish County, including the courts of Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Tacoma, and Olympia, Washington. Contact us today for a free consultation.