In North Carolina, stalking is a very serious crime that can carry heavy legal penalties. That’s why it’s so important that you understand what constitutes stalking so that you can ensure that you avoid such behavior. There are two different types of stalking: stalking and cyberstalking.
What is Stalking?
Under state law, someone is guilty of stalking if he or she:
- Willfully on more than one occasion follows or harasses another person without a legal purpose; or
- Willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose; and
- The person knows or should know that the harassment of the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment.
A Pattern of Behavior
Stalking is represented by a pattern of behavior. A “course of conduct” is intended to be broadly defined and includes two or more direct or indirect acts, including:
- Communicating to or about
- Being in the presence of the victim
- Interfering with the victim’s property
If someone is found guilty of the crime of stalking, it is considered a Class A misdemeanor for a first-time offense. If it is a second-time offense and conviction, it moves to a Class F felony. Should there be a protective order in place at the time the stalking occurs, it may be a Class H felony. Penalties if convicted of stalking include jail time, fines, restraining orders, and counseling.
The purpose of the stalking statute is to stop the occurrence of further conduct, often domestic violence.
What is Cyberstalking?
With the prevalence of the internet, iPhone, and electronic communications, many people have begun to use these means to harass, threaten, or intimidate others. This is called cyberstalking, which is a form of stalking. Cyberstalking often includes threatening or offensive emails and messages, often through social media. It may also include websites that contain false and harmful information about the victim. North Carolina law also prohibits cyberbullying and revenge porn.
Potential Defenses to Stalking
Those who have been accused of stalking (or cyberstalking) may have defenses that can be raised. Such defenses include:
- The contact was consensual
- No actual stalking occurred
- There existed no intent to cause fear or emotional distress
- The defendant’s actions were protected by the First Amendment
Hancock Law Firm, PLLC Helps Those in North Carolina Who Have Been Charged with Stalking
If you have been charged with stalking and believe that your rights have been violated or that you have a defense to the charge, you may have options. You have the right to defend yourself. Your best bet of doing so successfully is with the help of a knowledgeable and experienced North Carolina criminal defense attorney who understands what you are up against and will fight on your behalf.
At Hancock Law Firm, PLLC, we fully understand what is at stake and will do everything that we can to help you to fight this order. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!