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What to Do if You’re Being Stalked

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Every single year, approximately 7.5 million Americans become the victims of a stalker. If you suspect that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker you must remain calm while simultaneously taking steps to protect yourself.

Don’t Dismiss the Threat

One of the biggest mistakes many stalking victims make is deciding that they are imagining things or that the situation isn’t all that serious. When it comes to a stalker, it’s best to be over-cautious. Being the victim of a stalker not only puts your mental health at risk, but it can also be life-threatening. The University of Gloucestershire conducted a six-month study that revealed that stalking was a component in 94% of the studied homicides.

As soon as you even suspect you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, you need to take steps to protect yourself.

Block Your Social Media Accounts

Social media has made stalking easier than ever before. Routing posts provide an incredible amount of information that a stalker will use against you. When you feel that you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker, set all of your online profiles to private and stop posting updates, particularly updates that a stalker could use to figure out where you’re going and your routine.

Alert Loved Ones to the Situation

Even if you only have a funny feeling about someone, you should talk to your loved ones about the situation. Not only will they help you decide if you’re imagining things, but they can also take steps to make sure you’re protected. A perfect example of how alerting a loved one to the situation will help you out is that they’ll be willing to accompany you on errands. Not only is there safety in numbers, but the second pair of eyes means you will have a witness to the stalking which will strengthen your case if you have to press charges.

Start Keeping a Record

Pull out a notebook and start recording everything that relates to your stalker. This record should include gifts you’ve received, any time they’ve been in the same location as you, and all virtual and in-person conversations you’ve had with them. It’s a good idea to keep copies of these records in different locations. The data you collect will be a key piece of evidence against your stalker.

Get Serious About Personal Protection

You can’t afford to get casual with your personal protection. As soon as you feel that you’re becoming the victim of a stalker, you need to take a long look at your current situation and evaluate how you can make it safer. You need to lock your doors. You need to alert loved ones about where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Consider taking a self-defense class. Get into the habit of frequently checking in with loved ones. You may even want to consider staying with a friend or loved one until you can figure out how to resolve the situation.

Talk to the Police

As soon as you start to feel threatened by the stalker, it’s time to contact the police. The amount of protection they can provide will depend on your exact circumstances. Even if the situation hasn’t escalated to the point of you being able to obtain a restraining order or file charges against your stalker, contacting the authorities is always a good idea since it officially shows that you’re concerned about the situation and creates yet another record that strengthens your case. The police will also likely have some advice about additional steps you can take to protect yourself.

The most important thing to remember when you’ve attracted the attention of a stalker is to cut your ties with them and to trust your instincts.


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California Stalking Laws

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In California, you can be convicted of stalking even if you have never engaged in actively pursuing a victim as they went about their daily activities. It’s even possible to be found guilty of California’s stalking laws if you’ve never had a face-to-face encounter with the victim. The reason for this is because California lawmakers have written the state’s stalking laws in such a way that they encompass a variety of acts that include harassment, even if that harassment only takes place in the form of letters, social media posts, or phone calls.

The issue of stalking in California is addressed in Penal Code 646.9 PC. The laws states, “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.”

The interesting thing about California’s stalking laws is that contacting someone via social media posts, making phone calls, and following them around isn’t always considered stalking. While these things may result in a police report getting filed, to convict you of stalking, the prosecution must prove that your actions/words threatened the victim so that they feared for either their life or their safety.

One of the interesting things about California’s stalking laws is that they are wobbler offenses. That means you could be charged with misdemeanor or felony stalking. There have even been instances where a person was charged with both misdemeanor and felony stalking. The bulk of stalking convictions in California are misdemeanors.

If you’re convicted of one count of misdemeanor stalking in California, the judge can sentence you to a full year in county jail, fine you up to $1,000, and misdemeanor probation. If convicted of felony stalking, your sentence can include up to five years in a state prison, felony probation, and a fine.

While stalking charges involve threatening a victim, if that victim is hurt as a result of your actions, you’ll likely be charged with assault and intimidation in addition to stalking.

Criminal charges could represent one of the problems you face following a California stalking case. Many stalking victims also decide to file a civil case against their stalker. The purpose of the civil case is to gain financial compensation for the mental anguish they suffered as a result of the stalking episode.


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What is Felony Stalking

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While everyone knows that stalking is a crime, few realize that it can be a felony or a misdemeanor and in some cases, the accused might be charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor.

Every single state has stalking laws. While the nuances of stalking laws vary from one state to another, for the most part, each state has the same description of what can be considered stalking. As a rule, any behavior that can be considered prolonged harassment, an obvious attempt to frighten someone, the unwanted monitoring of a person, using proximity to threaten a person, or actions that lead to emotional distress is covered by stalking laws.

Anyone who engages in the following types of behavior will likely be charged and convicted of stalking in California:

  • Going out of your way to follow a person
  • Frequently showing up at locations where you know a specific person will be
  • Using GPS to monitor a person’s movements
  • Constantly filming/photographing someone without their permission
  • Obsessively monitoring someone’s social media accounts, phone calls/texts, reading their emails, and studying their computer activities
  • Going out of your way to gather as much information as you can about a specific person
  • Leveling threats against a person or their loved ones (including pets) if they don’t spend time with you
  • Instigating property damage
  • Sending gifts and other forms of communication after you’ve been told to stop doing so

While it’s true that it can sometimes be difficult to determine when stalking crosses the line from a misdemeanor and becomes a felony, the general rule of thumb is that anything that seems more intense than simple harassment will likely be considered a case of felony stalking.

The exact punishment a person receives following a stalking conviction in California often varies from one case to the next. When handing down a sentence, the judge looks at a variety of factors, including:

  • Your criminal history
  • The type/intensity of the stalking episodes
  • If the victim had a POP order that you ignored
  • If anyone was hurt because of your actions

The sentence for a misdemeanor conviction can include spending a maximum of one year in county jail and being required to pay a fine that doesn’t exceed $1,000. In most cases, you’ll also be told that you’re legally required to stay away from your victim and that you’re also not allowed to contact them.

The sentence for a felony stalking conviction in California can include spending three years in state prison. If you have prior stalking convictions on your record, you could be sentenced to five years in prison.