Stalking is a form of harassment. It occurs when one person follows or harasses another person on an ongoing basis, particularly when this action causes the person being followed to fear for his or her safety.
According to RCW §9A.46.110, a person is guilty of stalking if, without lawful authority, he:
- Intentionally and repeatedly harasses or repeatedly follows another person (the victim);
- The victim is placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure him, his property, or another person. The fear must be reasonable, such that a reasonable person in the same situation would experience; AND
- The stalker either intends to frighten, intimidate, or harass the victim, OR knows or reasonably should know that the victim is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the stalker did not intend to place the victim in fear or intimidate or harass the victim.
There is an exception to this law: licensed private investigators who are following others as part of their jobs and within the capacity of their licenses are not to be found guilty of stalking.Penalties for Stalking in Washington:
Stalking is usually considered a gross misdemeanor, which RCW §9A.20.021 defines as punishable by up to one year in jail, a maximum fine of $5,000, or both.
However, stalking can be considered a class C felony when certain aggravating factors are present, in which case, pursuant to RCW §9A.20.021, it is punishable by up to five years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. Such aggravating factors include previous stalking convictions, stalking individuals specifically named in protective orders, stalking someone while armed with a deadly weapon, and stalking certain types of individuals (such as judges, jurors, law enforcement officers, etc.), among other factors.Defending a Stalking Charge:
There may be multiple ways to defend a stalking charge. One possible strategy is to prove that the victim's fear was not reasonable. It is crucial that you enlist in the help of a skilled criminal defense attorney to develop a solid defense strategy.