When personal relationships hit a rough patch or do not work out, sometimes one person is not ready to let go. Behavior that might be an innocent attempt to reconcile or find closure can be misconstrued as stalking.
Harassment is the legal term prosecutors use to define an aspect of stalking behavior. If someone complained that you harassed them and you face stalking charges, contact a domestic violence attorney immediately. This can be a felony charge and requires an Orlando harassment lawyer to provide a skillful defense.
Florida Statute § 784.08 defines harassment as engaging in a series of acts over time directed at a specific person without a legitimate purpose, causing substantial distress to that person. Under the state’s definition, anyone who engages in harassment is committing the crime of stalking. An Orlando harassment attorney could investigate the circumstances that led to the arrest and challenge whether the behavior qualifies as stalking under the statute.
Intentionally harassing someone could result in a first-degree misdemeanor charge. If convicted of misdemeanor stalking, an offender could face up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
If the alleged harasser also makes a credible threat against the person, they could face an aggravated stalking charge, which is a third-degree felony. Aggravated charges are also possible if the alleged victim is under 16 or has an order of protection against the accused. If convicted of aggravated stalking, an offender could receive a prison sentence of up to five years and a $5,000 fine.
Alleged victims of harassment often seek a protective order enjoining the accused from contacting them. The alleged victim can apply to the court for an injunction requiring the accused stalker to stay away from them. The court usually grants a temporary order and then holds a hearing within a few days to determine whether to issue a permanent order.
The injunction, often called a restraining order, could bar the accused from approaching within a specified distance of the alleged victim and contacting them by telephone, text or electronic message, mail, or through third parties. It could direct the accused not to follow or harass the alleged victim.
The alleged harasser usually is not aware of the temporary order until the sheriff serves them with it, along with the notice of hearing. Typically, the recipient has only a few days to prepare for the hearing on a permanent order. An Orlando attorney could represent someone contesting a harassment restraining order and ensure that any order is narrowly written and does not unnecessarily infringe on their rights.
A stalking conviction carries significant consequences. Apart from the criminal penalties, it is a domestic violence crime. Someone with a conviction might face reduced job and housing opportunities, and could be at a disadvantage in divorce and child custody proceedings. It could also affect a non-citizen’s immigration status.
An Orlando attorney could challenge the prosecutor’s evidence of the defendant’s intent to harass. If they had a legitimate purpose for engaging the alleged victim—such as a matter concerning shared children, business, or similar issue—the contact might not be considered harassment. The prosecution must prove a pattern of unwanted contact, and a legal advocate could argue that there was insufficient evidence to prove a pattern. The defense also could argue that the person’s reaction to the contact was exaggerated or unreasonable, or that it was not substantial enough to meet the definition of harassment.
Sometimes people accuse others of stalking to gain an advantage in a divorce, child custody proceeding, or other legal case. Exposing the alleged victim’s improper motives could be an effective defense to harassment allegations.
Being accused of harassment is a serious matter because it could lead to a stalking charge, which is crime. Trying to manage the issue without the help of an experienced criminal attorney is unwise.
Call an Orlando harassment lawyer immediately if you are arrested or receive notice of a temporary restraining order against you. It is possible to fight back against these allegations if you have skilled representation. Call today.
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