Between cell phones, email and social media, you can reach someone almost anytime you want to. And while in many ways, this is a good thing, it also creates a situation where it’s incredibly easy to run afoul of the Virginia stalking law. At the Robinson Law Firm, PLLC, we understand that being charged with stalking under Virginia Code § 18.2-60.3 doesn’t make you a stalker. That’s why we proudly represent men and women who face these serious charges, helping them move past their arrest and keeping their records clean so they can move on with their lives.What Is Stalking in Virginia?
Under Virginia Code § 18.2-60.3, stalking involves repeated communication with another person that reasonably places them in fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury. The elements that the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt before a judge or jury can convict someone of stalking are:
- The defendant engaged in communication with another person on more than one occasion;
- The defendant placed, intended to place, or should have known that their conduct put the alleged victim in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury.
Virginia law also contains a presumption under which the judge or jury can assume that the defendant intended to place the alleged victim in reasonable fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury. This presumption applies when a defendant contacts or follows or attempts to contact or follow the alleged victim after receiving actual notice that they do not want to be contacted or followed.What Are the Penalties of a Stalking Conviction in Virginia?
For a first-time offense, stalking is a Class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. However, if you have a prior stalking conviction within the past five years, you’ll face a Class 6 felony, which carries a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of $2,500.
Additionally, after a judge finds someone guilty of stalking, the judge must issue an order prohibiting the defendant from contacting the victim or their family members.Defenses to Stalking Charges
Like all crimes, stalking has a number of defenses that may apply. While every case is different, the following are common defenses to stalking charges:
- The victim’s fear of death, criminal sexual assault, or bodily injury was not reasonable;
- The defendant did not intend to cause the alleged victim to be fearful; and
- The alleged victim made up or exaggerated the defendant’s actions.
Stalking often involves parties who know each other, and these cases often depend on the nature of the relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim. For example, going into the history of a nasty break-up between the parties could provide context for the defendant’s actions or even provide a motive for the alleged victim to have fabricated the allegations.Related Offenses
Depending on the situation, prosecutors may charge the following offenses in addition to stalking:
- Harassment by Computer (Virginia Code § 18.2-152.7:1)
- Assault and Battery Against a Family or Household Member (Virginia Code § 18.2-57.2)
- Threats of Death or Bodily Injury (Virginia Code § 18.2-60)
- Violation of Protective Orders (Virginia Code § 18.2-60.4)
If you were recently arrested and charged with stalking, harassment, or any other crime involving domestic violence or family assault, it is imperative that you reach out to an experienced Fairfax criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At the Robinson Law Firm, PLLC, we have more than 50 years of combined experience standing up for the rights of the accused and helping them move on with their lives after a traumatizing arrest. We understand that whatever is in the police report is almost certainly not what happened, and we’re here to uphold your presumption of innocence however we can. To learn more and to schedule a free consultation today, call 703-844-3746. You can also connect with us through our online contact form. We proudly represent clients in Fairfax, Loudon, Stafford, and Suffolk counties, as well as throughout Northern Virginia.