Stalking and cyberstalking are serious offenses in the state of Texas. However, while many people are under the impression that avoiding contact with an individual prevents them from being charged as criminals, simply causing fear and presenting oneself as a reasonable threat may be enough to initiate a court case. It is important for both alleged perpetrators and victims to know the severity of these crimes in addition to their options when considering taking legal action.
Houston criminal defense attorneys from the Law Office of David A. Breston are able to provide the most current and explicit information when it comes to matters of criminal defense.
As previously mentioned, the state of Texas is accustomed to seeing a number of stalking cases throughout the year. Stalking is defined as a pattern of malicious behavior occurring over a certain amount of time. This does not necessarily have to be “direct” actions such as following, pursuing, or showing up at someone’s place of work or residence. The internet, mail, and phone communications can also lead to a stalking charge. Even unwanted gifts or messages can be included under this definition and have been prosecuted under state law. Cyberstalking broadly refers to bullying, abuse, harassment, and reputational damage that occurs online.
Every state has a definition and codified information regarding stalking. One of the primary hallmarks of the Texan definition is the classification of someone’s behavior as being knowingly threatening or able to cause fear in the victim. This is, to the surprise of many, a third-degree felony. A stalking charge is one that would be needed to be reported on future job applications and other official documents. Repeating offenders would receive a second-degree felony for this offense.
One underlying and common attribute of a stalking charge is that of a threat. This threat must be aimed at a specific person and cannot be general or more widely applicable to an undefined population or individual. It does not necessarily have to be made by the stalker themself but may also be made by someone acting on behalf of them, such as an accomplice. In addition, these threats do not necessarily have to be explicit – they may be implied through reasonable assumptions.
It is important to remember, in cases of defense, that these charges are largely subjective. Sometimes, it is not the case that someone was intending to cause harm or stalk someone that they know. In these scenarios, the actions and communications of the individual are misrepresented in the eyes of the victim. In other cases, reports of stalking are completely fabricated, and the lack of evidence may be presented to a jury by the defense in order to clear the name of the accused.
In any case, being convicted of a third-degree felony in the state of Texas carries a prison sentence of 2 to 4 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Should someone be convicted of stalking as a repeating offense and the charges be raised to a second-degree felony, the potential prison time that someone may have to face is up to 20 years. In the case of cyberstalking, the charge can range from a class B misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. This does not go to say that those charged with this crime need to face it alone. Houston criminal defense attorneys, such as those from the Law Office of David A. Breston, are highly experienced in defending stalking cases. Call us today for a free consultation at (713) 804 6492.