Columbia Stalking Lawyer
Stalking is a crime that results when a person makes unwanted contact with another party without their consent. Stalking or harassment is a course of conduct where a person tries to make contact with another person even though that other person has made it clear that they want no further contact with the individual.
If you have been charged with stalking in Columbia, it is very important to contact a local criminal lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you receive a strong defense to minimize the penalties you are facing as much as possible.
Elements of the Crime
Any kind of contact with another party that is unwanted can lead to charges associated with stalking. Elements of stalking include the techniques a person uses to try to contact another person; it does not matter what method they use to make contact. The contact could be in person, by telephone, email, social media, or even through a third party. Contact by a third party is where a person tells a family member or friend to pass along messages or information to another party when that person wants no contact or no information from the individual In stalking cases, the person has knowledge and is aware that the other individual wants no contact with them.
Stalking requires intent on the part of the person who commits the act, when they had knowledge that they were not supposed to make contact with the other party, but continued to do so. A misunderstanding is a good defense that can be available to a Columbia stalking attorney and can be presented to a judge to try to have the stalking charges dismissed.
There are a number of things that can be considered harassment in Maryland, and specifically in Columbia. Harassment is usually a course of conduct that involves unwanted communication with another party after someone was instructed to no longer communicate with the other party.
If Convicted of Harassment
If a person is convicted of harassment charges, they may face an order of protection if the same individual who filed harassment charges against them also determines it is necessary to file an order of protection.
The reason a person files criminal charges in addition to requesting a protective order is because the standard of proof for a harassment charge in court is guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In many cases, the government is unable to meet that burden of proof in criminal court.
The standard of proof for a protective order is much lower; specifically, it requires a preponderance of the evidence. It is far more likely that a person is awarded protection in a protective order scenario even if their case is not criminally prosecuted in the filing of harassment charges.
Penalties Associated With Stalking
Stalking is not actually a charge; harassment is the charge that stalking usually falls under. A person could face penalties including lengthy periods of incarceration as well as periods of probation. Usually, when the stalking charge is coupled with any kind of violence or threats of violence, the charges could be more severe. When making a determination about how to punish somebody who is convicted of stalking in Columbia, a judge also evaluates the surrounding circumstances of the case to determine the level of seriousness.
For example, a person who attempted to contact another person with a message of love might be stalking that person, but is not considered to be committing the crime as seriously as the person who contacts another with threats of violence or hate.
Order of Protection
An order of protection is mandated by the court after an individual goes to the court system and explains why they are fearful or feel they are being harassed by another person. A judge reviews the information and evidence and determines by a preponderance of the evidence if the person deserves protection from the other party. The other party is served with the order of protection at that point and has an opportunity to respond before the order is finalized.
A judge often considers where a person needs to be protected, such as their home, their workplace, or both. In certain situations, when there are children in common, issues of custody, alimony, and family support are temporarily established during the course of the order of protection.
Violating Protective Orders
Violation of protective orders can also tie in to stalking cases. Oftentimes, when a person is being stalked, they might seek a protective order or a peace order from the court system asking the court to warn the other party in writing and verbally to not have any further contact with the person who initiated the protective order.
If that person is stalked or harassed, they can contact the police or report to the court directly to inform them that a person is violating a court order by having contact with them. In that case, the person is charged with violation of a peace or protective order, if it is verified that they made contact in violation of that court order.
Benefits of Having a Columbia Stalking Lawyer
It is important to remember that stalking offenses are criminal offenses that carry the possibility of a lengthy period of probation in addition to the stigma attached to having a criminal record.
Having a Columbia stalking attorney, who understands these penalties and knows the possible defenses and arguments available to you in a case like this, is extremely important to ensure you are properly represented throughout the process of your case. Having an experienced legal advocate on your side has numerous benefits to your case.