A Lawyer’s | Attorney’s Perspective on Stalking based on Experience.
In Washington, when stalking moves from the online realm (read our section on Cyberstalking) and into the physical world, a separate criminal statute applies. Whether you are being accused of stalking or you think you are the victim of stalking, it is important to understand what stalking actually is according to Washington law. In Washington, our lawyers have played both sides in court: as civil lawyers prosecuting respondents accused of stalking by seeking a protection order against them and as criminal defense lawyers, defended those accused of stalking.
In Washington, stalking can be defined in several different ways. First, the individual needs to intentionally and repeatedly harass or repeatedly follow the other person. Second, the person being harassed or followed must be placed in fear that the stalker intends to injure the person, another person, or their property. This fear must be one that a reasonable person would experience under all of the circumstances. Third, a person must either intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the other person or the person accused of stalking knows or reasonably should know that the person being stalked is afraid, intimidated, or harassed even if the accused stalker did not intend to place the person in fear or intimidate or harass the person. The link to the Washington Revised code of Washington, RCW 9a.46.110, is hyperlinked in this paragraph if you wish to read it yourself.
As Washington civil and criminal defense lawyers, we think it important to note, is not a defense that the person accused of stalking did not intent to harass or intimidate. Additionally, it is also not a defense that the person accused of stalking was not given notice the person did not want the stalker to contact or follow the person. As civil lawyers and criminal defense lawyers, we see a lot of cases become tricky due to the alleged stalker’s intent being unclear. For someone who feels they are being stalked, we are of the opinion that giving a clear written notice which can later be shown in court (a certified letter, return receipt requested) is the gold standard to tell someone to stop contacting or keeping track of you. Once you tell someone to stop, stop engaging in any communication: period. Once notice has been given, attempts to contact or follow a person is considered prima facie evidence that that person intends to intimidate or harass. The definition of “contact” is any form of contact, including electronic (like emails, texts, facebook messages, etc.) If you get such a warning, stop because the law is going to side with the other party. If you are angry with someone i.e. they owe you money, they took advantage of you, they abused you, contact a civil lawyer, like the ones at our firm, and let the lawyer act for you. If you think there is a misunderstanding, stop because the law will likely not see it that way if you are taking matters into your own hands. If you do get such a warning but you continue to act because you think you do not have a problem, realize that if a police officer contacts you, you do have a problem and wise clients contact and retain a criminal defense | civil defense lawyer immediately before giving a voluntary statement to the police. Remember, if a police officer is talking to you, they are always acting in an investigatory role. Whether you like it or not, you are being investigated so do not speak till you speak with a lawyer.
Typically, stalking is a gross misdemeanor. However, there are certain circumstances which may raise the charge to a felony, such as being convicted of harassing the same victim previously, or being armed with a deadly weapon while stalking. There are also other farther reaching consequences so best speak with a lawyer and check your assessment of your case before you do irreversible harm to yourself or another.
If you are being accused of stalking an individual, it is extremely important to consult with a criminal defense lawyer, like Rhodes Legal Group PLLC, immediately. It is very common for the police to ask for statements from potential defendants during an investigation. An experienced attorney will take charge and will help prevent you from talking your way into greater trouble.
*It is important that potential clients understand that unless the accusations are completely false or fabricated, we almost always require, as a condition of representation, that our client gets a mental health evaluation, whether we use it in court or not. If the matter involves mental illness, there is hope as the criminal system is not without understanding. Absent false accusations, we don’t represent clients who refuse to even consider that their thought process is impaired in these kinds of cases. Think about it: only the mentally ill, addicts and narcissists believe everything they think is right. The rest of us are open to questioning our assumptions and thoughts.
If you think you are being stalked, it is important to reach out to the police immediately. After contacting the authorities, if necessary, you should consider contacting a firm like the Rhodes Legal Group to help you obtain a protection order. Understandably, the police need to conduct an investigation so their intervention into your situation might not necessarily be as immediate as you would like it to be. Also, the standards of proof for a civil case are far lower than a criminal case , so behavior that may not qualify as criminal, may qualify for a civil protection order. When you review the Washington law on a whole, it becomes apparent it was designed this way for a reason. The attorneys in our firm can very quickly file an emergency protection order on your behalf in the meantime to help protect you.
If you think you might be engaging in stalking behavior, or are being investigated or charged, please contact us after reading all the material on this page. We can and have helped many others in the past.
It is important to consult with an experienced firm who can help you navigate these difficult waters. The Rhodes Legal Group has collectively decades of experience representing the accused and victims in criminal and civil cases. Email or call 206-708-7852 to set an appointment.