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Stalking Laws (PC 646.9) in California - IE Criminal Defense

I. California Penal Code 646.9(a): Stalking

Legal Definition: Any person who willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows or willfully and maliciously harasses another person and who makes a credible threat with the intent to place that person in reasonable fear for his or her safety, or the safety of his or her immediate family is guilty of the crime of stalking.

For a person to be convicted of a violation of PC 646.9(a), the prosecution must prove the following:

1. You willfully and maliciously harassed or willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed another person;


2. You made a credible threat with the intent to place the other person in reasonable fear for his/her safety or for the safety of his/her immediate family.

II. What does this mean?

A credible threat is one that causes the target of the threat to reasonably fear for his or her safety or for the safety of his or her immediate family and one that the maker of the threat appears to be able to carry out. The threat may be made orally, in writing, or electronically or may be implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of statements and conduct. Harassing means engaging in a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously annoys, alarms, torments, or terrorizes the person and that serves no legitimate purpose.

A course of conduct means two or more acts occurring over a period of time, however short, demonstrating a continuous purpose. How many times a victim must be harassed or threatened in order for you to properly be charged with the crime of stalking depends on the circumstances of the case, this is why it can be messages, writings, phone calls; the combination of which can lead to a charge under this section. It can be something as short as one phone or as many as five hundred phone calls, it is a case-by-case analysis.

III. Penalties

Stalking is a wobbler crime, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony, based on the level of the contact with the victim, your criminal history, and the specific facts of your case. If you are convicted of this charge as a misdemeanor, you could be sentenced to up to one year in County Jail. If you are convicted of this offense as a felony, you could be sentenced to upwards of 16 months, two or three years in State Prison. You would be required to serve 50% of that sentence.

Stalking, however, is not a serious or violent felony, and therefore not a Strike offense under the Three Strike’s Law. However, because this is a crime of repeated harassment, it will affect your legal status for immigration purposes, as well as any professional license you may hold. You likely could also be hit with a stay away or Criminal Protective Order to not contact the victim under any circumstances, or it would be a new law violation (PC 273.6).

IV. Common Defenses

  1. Statute of Limitations
  2. Insufficient Evidence
  3. Violation of your Rights
  4. Mistake of Fact

These charges are extremely factually specific. Sometimes people can be over-dramatic, can misunderstand, or take your words the wrong way. Then you, thinking they may have misunderstood, try to call them back, or contact them again to correct whatever confusion exists, and end up making things worse, call after call.

V. Call Today

A charge like this seems unlikely to happen in most peoples’ lives. It can be thought that stalking requires following a person around, calling them every day, and never leaving a person alone. As shown above, it’s much easier to be charged under this section than you would think. That is why it is important to hire a good, and aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney who can help to reduce, or even dismiss your case, based on false accusations. Our PC 646.9 Ontario criminal defense attorney has successfully defended numerous cases involving PC 649.9 and other stalking offenses. The initial consultation is free and we are available to answer your questions 24/7. Call the Inland Empire Criminal Defense today at 909-939-7126! Located in Ontario, CA.

Disclaimer: The legal information presented at this site should not be construed to be formal legal advice, nor should it be considered the formation of a lawyer or attorney-client relationship. If you would like to find out more information about your particular legal matter, contact our office for a consultation.

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