Stalking is a serious offense in Virginia, and you can face severe consequences if you are convicted. It can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony offense. If you are charged with stalking, contact the experienced criminal defense lawyers at Greenspun Shapiro PC for a free case evaluation to learn how we can assist you in mounting a strong defense to the charges you face.
Understanding the Crime of Stalking in Virginia
Virginia Code § 18.2-60.3 defines what constitutes the offense of stalking in our Commonwealth. Stalking is the intentional engaging in behavior or conduct that causes another individual to be in fear of death, criminal sexual activity, or bodily injury. To convict a person of this crime, the prosecutor must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The accused engaged in the stalking behaviors or conduct on at least two occasions.
- The conduct or behavior was directed at another individual.
- The accused intended to place the individual or member of his family or household in fear of death, injury, or sexual assault.
What Actions May Be Considered Stalking?
There are many behaviors that can be considered stalking if they are done with the intent to place the victim in fear of death, injury, or sexual assault. There must be two or more incidents of stalking for a person to be convicted of this crime. They can include:
- Repeatedly calling or texting the victim
- Following the victim from location to location
- Showing up without permission at the victim’s job
- Sending the victim unwanted gifts or packages
- Waiting for the victim at her home or workplace
- Making threatening online communications, such as on social media sites
Who Is Considered a Family Member?
The stalking must be directed at another person or a family or household member. A family or household member can include:
- Spouse or former spouse
- Children and stepchildren
- Person who shares children with the accused
- Parents and stepparents
- Siblings and half-brothers and sisters
- Grandparents and grandchildren
- Father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law if they reside with the accused
Where Must the Stalking Occur?
An individual can be charged with stalking even if some of the stalking behaviors occur in a different state. All that is required is that at least one incident of stalking occurs in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This is true even if the majority of stalking happens in another state.
Penalties You Face If Charged With a Misdemeanor Stalking Offense
A first arrest for stalking will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, you may be sentenced to the following:
- Jail sentence of up to 12 months
- Fine not to exceed $2,500
- Protective order requiring you to have no contact with the victim, her family, and her household members
When Stalking Is Charged as a Felony
If you are convicted with a second or subsequent stalking offense within five years of a prior conviction, you will be charged with a Class 6 felony. The prior conviction does not need to be in Virginia. A conviction of a substantially similar offense in another state can meet the requirements for you to be charged with a felony.
The penalties are harsher when the conviction is for felony stalking. The punishment can include:
- Prison sentence of up to five years
- In the judge’s or jury’s discretion, up to 12 months in jail and a fine of up to $2,500
- No-contact order requiring no contact with the victim and her family and household members
How an Experienced Fairfax Criminal Attorney Can Help
As with other criminal offenses, you may have strong defenses to a charge of stalking. Our skilled legal team has extensive experience building a strong defense to charges of stalking and other serious federal and state crimes for our clients so that they achieve the best possible outcome in their criminal cases. To learn how we will aggressively fight the charges you face, call our Fairfax office to schedule your free consultation today.