In Pittsburgh, stalking charges usually stem from break-ups or divorces where one person floods the other with unwanted phone calls, texts or emails that are meant to harass or frighten them. If you are arrested for stalking, you will find that courts in Pennsylvania deal with stalking very seriously. You can potentially face years in prison and you may even be subject to a protection order.
If you are questioned by the police or charged, you will need to hire an attorney who will evaluate both sides of the story and provide you with a strong defense.
Stalking Charges in Pennsylvania
Stalking is to do either of the following:
- engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person; or
- engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person under circumstances which demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person.
Essentially, you commit stalking when you repeatedly and knowingly do something that would cause someone fear that he or she would be injured or emotionally distressed. For example, if you sit in the parking lot at your ex-wife’s office every day, knowing that it frightens and upsets her. This includes communication, so sending hundreds of threatening texts to your ex-husband’s new girlfriend would also be considered stalking.
It is also stalking if you repeatedly communicate in ways that you know will cause another person to fear they will be injured or that will cause them substantial emotional distress. For example, sending hundreds of threatening texts to your ex-husband’s new girlfriend.
Penalties for Stalking
For a first offense for stalking, you can be charged with a misdemeanor of the first degree and sent to prison for up to five years.
If it’s your second offense or you previously committed a violent offense against the same person, you can be charged with a felony of the third degree, punished by up to seven years in prison.
Your alleged victim can ask the courts for a protection from abuse order (PFA). A PFA will restrict you from having any contact with them and will order you to stay away from them. It may even specify the specific distance you need to stay away. If you and the alleged victim live together, this means you will not be allowed to return home.
Call a Pittsburgh Stalking Attorney if Charged
If you have been charged with stalking, your first step should be to immediately hire a lawyer. You may be jailed overnight or for several days before your bond is set. While you are in jail, do not talk about the incidents that occurred with anyone other than your attorney. Don’t talk to the police or prosecutors unless your attorney is with you. Do not consider any offers the police or prosecutors may make without talking to your attorney first. Your lawyer will have your best interests in mind and can help you make the decisions that are right for you under your specific circumstances. Do not have any contact at all with the alleged victim. If you phone or text them or otherwise communicate with them, what you say can be taken out of context and used against you at a trial.
When you meet with your lawyer, tell them everything that happened both before and during your arrest. If the alleged victim’s accusations are the only evidence against you, your position is stronger than it would be if there were additional evidence. Your attorney will analyze their claims for contradictions or obvious falsehoods.