Somerset Stalking Lawyer
Stalking was only recently made an offense in Maryland, and is considered more aggressive than harassment. To convict someone of stalking, the state must prove that the defendant was engaging in a malicious course of conduct. Additionally, the conduct had to be ongoing, with more than one confrontation with the victim experiencing reasonable fear of escalation, such as violence or rape.
Moreover, it is important to understand that, when an individual is charged with and convicted of stalking, he or she could receive a sentence that is separate from and in addition to any other sentence that he or she receives. For example, if the defendant is charged with both assaulting a victim and harassing a victim, then the defendant could receive two consecutive sentences for what may be essentially the same conduct. In this way, stalking is a very serious offense with considerable consequences.
As soon as a person suspects they are being investigated for stalking, they should contact a Somerset criminal attorney. A person does not have to and should not wait until they have been charged before hiring an attorney. The attorney can usually meet with them right away and begin talking about the investigation and advise the defendant on steps moving forward. It is important to refrain from making statements to the police until your legal representation arrives.
Elements of the Crime
It is important to remember that it is very easy to charge somebody with a crime, as doing so only requires probable cause, the lowest level of evidentiary standard that exists in the criminal justice system. Given this, it is possible that an individual could be charged with stalking over a misunderstanding; however, it is less likely that an individual could be convicted of stalking over a misunderstanding. This is because the evidentiary standard necessary for an individual to be convicted of a crime is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
The law of stalking requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s behavior was intentional and that the defendant either intended to place the victim in harm’s way or reasonably knew that his or her conduct would place the victim in fear of harm.
Additionally, it is important to understand that the crime of stalking is charged when the subject behavior is ongoing. Typically, an individual would not be charged with stalking over a one-time incident in which he or she had a confrontation with another person.
If a person were charged with stalking, it is also quite possible that he or she would be charged with another crime, including harassment, and especially assault. This is because assault charges can arise when a victim is placed in fear that another individual is about to make offensive physical contact with him or her, regardless of whether such contact actually occurs. Therefore, the crime of stalking may involve an associated crime of assault.
It is also possible that the defendant could commit the crime of false imprisonment during the course of the crime of stalking if the defendant prevents the victim from leaving the defendant’s presence. Thus, if the defendant has held another individual in a room or other location that he or she is not able to leave due to the defendant’s actions, such actions may constitute the crime of false imprisonment.
Both assault and false imprisonment are examples that demonstrate the manner in which the crime of stalking may be related to separate crimes that may actually help to prove that stalking took place. It is also important to understand that, if a defendant is convicted of assault or false imprisonment in addition to the crime of stalking, then, under the law, he or she could be sentenced to consecutive sentences for this conduct.
Severity of Stalking Charges
In Somerset, stalking is a misdemeanor, but carries a maximum penalty of five years of incarceration and/or a fine of $5,000. While this is the maximum penalty that a person can receive for the crime of stalking, it is important to note that a sentence imposed for stalking can be separate and consecutive to a sentence for any other crime based on the same behavior. That is, if an individual is convicted of both assault and stalking, he or she may serve a separate and consecutive sentences for each of these crimes. These offenses would likely be the underlying behavior that contributed to the charge of stalking.
The sentence associated with a stalking conviction can become more severe if the defendant is also convicted of additional criminal offenses that carry separate penalties. For example, a person can be charged with stalking in addition to assault or false imprisonment. There is a possibility that the defendant could be sentenced to consecutive sentences, one running after the other. Their five-year sentence for stalking can be imposed consecutively, as opposed to concurrently, to the sentences for the other crimes for which they have been charged.
Additionally, in some instances, if the alleged victim feels as if the defendant poses a continued threat to him or her, he or she can get a protective order or a peace order against the defendant. If the alleged victim secures such an order and the defendant then continues to make contact with the victim, then the defendant is committing a separate crime of violating the order. In such an instance, this would be a separate crime with additional possible consequences upon conviction.
Burden of Proof
The prosecution must prove ongoing malicious course of conduct, including approaching or following the victim to a place where the defendant knows they will be, such as their workplace, home, et cetera. Additionally, the accused’s behavior must have placed the victim in reasonable fear that something else will happen, such as being assaulted, raped, or held against their will.
Role of a Somerset Attorney
The crime of stalking has very specific elements that must be proven. It is not considered a crime of stalking if the contact between the two people was a one-time incident. An experienced stalking attorney in Somerset knows how to attack elements of the prosecutor’s case and argue that a crime has not been proven.
It is important to have an attorney, especially if there is an argument on behalf of the accused. The defendant should contact a lawyer as soon as they can and have their attorney in place early on. This way the attorney can represent them at the bond or review hearing as well. An experienced attorney, familiar with the processes and judges in the local area, can assist by making aggressive arguments as opposed to an unrepresented person having to post bond who has been thrown into this environment for the first time. As early in the process as possible, the accused should consult and hire a Somerset stalking lawyer to represent them in court and assist in building a strong case with the details of the case.