You show up at an ex-lover’s house when you’ve been asked to stay away. You follow them or send gifts. You text them relentlessly and message them on Facebook.
Are you guilty of stalking?
In Houston, TX, you just might be. Here’s how Texas stalking law works, and what we can do if you’ve been charged.
What the Prosecution Must Prove
The prosecution must prove the following:
- That a pattern of malicious behavior has been established.
- You knew or should have reasonably known the target would regard the communications as threatening.
- You knowingly engaged in the conduct.
- You actually caused someone to feel “fear of bodily injury or death or in fear that an offense will be committed against the individual’s property, or to feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.”
- Committed conduct that was threatening harm or was defined as harassment.
- A reasonable person would have feared for their life, property, or felt harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.
- The target had reason to fear for their family members, children, housemates, or someone with whom they held a romantic relationship.
We can defend against these charges by challenging the prosecution on any of these points.
What kind of behavior counts as stalking?
This behavior can include any physical actions or interactions that are unwelcome and unwanted, and which make the recipient fear either for their safety, or for the safety of a member of their family or household.
A person who stalks someone is working to make them feel like they are in danger of being assaulted or killed. Texas also classifies stalking behaviors as those which make the target feel harassed, annoyed, alarmed, abused, tormented, embarrassed, or offended.
This could include showing up when you’ve been asked for no contact, making explicit threats, making veiled or implied threats, sending unwanted gifts, or sending unwanted communications. The prosecution must establish this as a pattern of behavior.
It is not necessary for you to do actual physical harm to be convicted of stalking.
How is stalking punished?
In Texas, a first offense is a third-degree felony punishable by two to ten years in prison, and with fines of $10,000 more more.
This is upgraded to a second-degree felony if this is a second offense or if you have been charged with harassment in the past. This can mean a prison sentence of 2 to 20 years, and a fine of up to $10,000.
Defenses For Stalking Charges
If we cannot adequately challenge the prosecution on any of the above-mentioned points, there are options.
For example, Texas also has a harassment charge. If we cannot get you acquitted or get charges dropped or dismissed we may be able to plea bargain you down to the less-serious harassment charge.
We can also try to prove that you did not engage in the behavior, that you were unaware that the behavior was unwanted, or that a reasonable person would not find your behavior objectionable. In some cases, we can undermine the case by looking at the behavior itself. For example, putting a tracking device in the alleged victim’s purse would be a behavior that could be charged as stalking, whereas putting one in a car you both have a shared ownership interest in might not be.
Either way, stalking is an extremely serious charge.
If you’re in trouble, contact our law office to get a solid defense team on your side today. A private criminal defense team may be your only hope of handling these charges effectively.
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