The common conception of stalking is a shadowy figure lurking in the bushes as they watch and follow their victim. According to Pennsylvania law, however, the crime of stalking is a bit more broad. Stalking occurs when a person willfully and persistently behaves in a way that causes their victim to become fearful or emotionally distressed. Perpetrators can do this by following their victim physically or through other means like the telephone or Internet.
A first stalking offense in Pennsylvania is considered a misdemeanor in the first degree. Repeated offenses can be considered third-degree felonies. The most common defendants in stalking cases are ex-partners or ex-spouses. In many circumstances, the stalking victim will seek a restraining order. This legal order requires the defendant to stay a certain distance away from the victim, and it may even require the defendant to cease all communication with the victim.
In general, a defendant can not be convicted with a stalking charge based on a one-time event. Specific actions performed by an alleged stalked must be put into the context of their other actions. The intent of the stalker must be malicious and purposeful, and they have to perform harmful actions repeatedly. Many of these cases are closely related to domestic violence.
Individuals who are accused of stalking an estranged partner or stranger have the right to legal representation from a criminal defense attorney. Anything said to law enforcement can be used against a defendant in court, so it may be important for those accused of stalking to speak with a lawyer before talking with investigators about a case. An attorney might analyze the circumstances of the stalking charges and recommend a course of legal action that is in the best interests of their client.