Proving Your Innocence When You’re Accused of Stalking
Abstract: When a person finds themselves accused of criminal stalking, how do they defend themselves? This article looks at many common ways that criminal defense attorneys often use to mount such a defense.
Physical stalking and cyberstalking are patterns of routine harassment. Accusations of stalking occur when a person intentionally places themselves in the life of another in various fear-inducing ways. In the state of Tennessee, the crime of stalking is considered a Class A misdemeanor for an initial offense, and a Class E or Class C felony in the event of repeat offenses. If a person charged with stalking is found guilty, they may face stiff financial penalties and prison time.
What kind of behavior counts as stalking?
Stalking is a form of criminally intimidating behavior. It could involve the following types of activity patterns:
- Following a person around without their consent.
- Showing up uninvited at a person’s home or workplace.
- Maintaining unwanted online or offline communications with a person.
- Recording a person without their permission.
- Threatening a person’s friends, family, or possessions.
- Using GPS trackers to track a person without their consent.
What do you do when you’re accused of a stalking crime?
When you find that the police are investigating you for stalking someone, your first step should be to find a criminal defense lawyer and retain their services. What you don’t want to do is to give the police any information in an attempt at clearing things up, or try to contact the accuser or their family to try to get them to see your side. Talking to any of these people without your lawyer’s counsel could complicate your case, because you might inadvertently say things that can be used against you. You may not see how this might be possible, but it often happens.
You may have information that you believe would completely exonerate you of all charges if you could only tell the police or the accuser of it, but it’s still important to run it by your lawyer, to make sure that the information isn’t used against you in unexpected ways.
How would a lawyer build a case to defend you?
A criminal defense lawyer experienced in defending people accused of stalking is able to study the facts of your case and build a defense to prove your innocence in various ways.
One example of the way a lawyer might make a case for the defendant’s innocence would involve calling into question whether the accuser actually had reasonable cause to experience fear as a result of the actions of the defendant. Reasonable fear is an important requirement in any stalking accusation.
A judge may see reason for fear even in the absence of the direct threat, but a lawyer might be able to present legal precedents and case rulings from the past in court to establish that the behaviors involved were found by other judges to be not sufficiently threatening as to invoke fear in a reasonable person.
A lawyer may also be able to defend a person accused of stalking by invoking the First Amendment. They may find ways in which a defendant’s superficially threatening behavior are capable of being seen as peaceable activity intended to provide information to others, or express political views.
Investigations by a lawyer may attempt to reveal a tendency in the accuser to wrongfully accuse people of nonexistent crimes, or they may call into doubt the accuser’s ability to accurately identify the accused. It may even come to light that the defendant behaved in the ways they did under pressure from a third party.
In some circumstances, a criminal defense attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecution to drop charges in exchange for an undertaking by the defendant that they will not repeat the behavior in question, in the future. If strong evidence should exist to point to the guilt of the defendant, the defendant’s attorney might be able to enter a plea deal for the minimum possible penalty, as well.
A criminal defense attorney can be an invaluable ally in any accusation involving a crime such as stalking that potentially leads to jail time. Bringing a lawyer in as soon as you learn about such criminal accusations against you could help you minimize legal penalties, or prove your innocence.