Stalking Laws in Florida
In Florida, the act of stalking is defined as “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly following, harassing or cyberstalking” another person. A stalker’s behavior can consist of many different things, including following someone or repeatedly contacting them through various electronic means like texts, calls, or e-mail. Stalking behaviors can include sending letters, leaving notes, or sending gifts. The basis of stalking is where someone develops a pattern of unwanted behavior and there is a malicious intent.
In some cases, especially with celebrities, stalking is often done by an overzealous fan or someone who does not personally know the object of their attention. For the average person, stalkers can be someone from a prior relationship that ended badly, or a perpetrator in cases involving domestic violence where one party attempts to flee. If you are being stalked and/or in a violent relationship, you need to seek safety and guidance. In addition, you should contact a Florida domestic violence attorney to help you seek a restraining order.
Criminal Charges for Stalking
Florida law considers stalking to be a first-degree misdemeanor. There are circumstances where it may constitute aggravated stalking, which is a third-degree felony. Aggravated stalking applies when:
- Stalking a minor who is under 16 years of age
- There is a credible threat of bodily injury or death against the victim, and there is intent to cause the victim to reasonably fear for his or her safety
- There is an existing injunction or court order that prohibits the offender from contacting the victim and the offender continues exhibiting stalking behavior
Credible threat is defined as a verbal or non-verbal threat, or a combination of both, including ones sent by electronic means, or an implied by a pattern of conduct, that places the potential victim in a position where they fear for their safety, or for the safety for their family members. There must be the apparent ability to carry out the threat to cause harm, but it is not required to prove the person who made the threat could actually carry it out. If the person is currently incarcerated, there is no restriction on prosecuting the offender.
What to Do if You’re Being Stalked
Stalking victims need to keep a log of the behaviors, which includes dates, witnesses, times, location, and a description of the behaviors. You should save all e-mails, letters, text messages, photographs, voicemail messages, or any other evidence that establishes a pattern of stalking behavior. If you can establish a pattern of behavior, regardless of whether or not the incident has been reported to law enforcement, the victim can file for an injunction. This applies even if there has not been actual violence to date.
Retaining a Florida Family Law Attorney
Dealing with a stalking situation, especially if there is abuse involved, can be terrifying for a victim. In addition to seeking emotional support, you need to protect yourself in the case it has the potential to escalate. A skilled Florida family law attorney that has experience with domestic violence matters and/or protective orders can help you through this terrifying time. Contact the Law Offices of Schwartz | White and speak with one of our knowledgeable and compassionate attorneys.