In our modern, interconnected world, it’s easier than ever to be accused of stalking. In fact, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 14 in every 1,000 persons age 18 or older have made reports of being stalking victims in 2019.
But what is stalking really?
In an era where most peoples’ lives are on full display on the internet, sometimes the lines get blurred. Is it stalking if you visit someone’s Facebook profile every day? What about if you message them every day?
If you’ve been accused of stalking, follow along as we go through what stalking actually is under Washington state law.
What is Stalking Behavior?
Some common examples of Stalking Behavior that people are often accused of includes:
- Hacking into email or social media accounts.
- Following someone through their everyday activities.
- Leaving unwanted gifts for a person.
- Calling, writing, or instant messaging someone after being told not to.
- Spreading rumors about someone.
- Going through someone’s personal property or garbage.
- Physical and verbal intimidation and threats.
Determining whether or not something is considered stalking in the eyes of the law can be a little more difficult. The prosecuting attorney’s office will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that stalking has taken place.
Stalking in Washington State: The Letter of the Law
Federal law 18 U.S.C. § 2261A handles interstate stalking, but beyond that, it’s up to individual states and territories to define their stalking laws.
Washington state has some of the strongest stalking laws in the nation in order to protect its residents. So strong, in fact, that back in November 2019, the state’s cyberstalking law was actually struck down as being unconstitutional.
That doesn’t mean Washington is going light on people accused of stalking these days, though. No, in fact, the laws in Washington are as strong as ever.
Misdemeanor stalking is the most common type of stalking offense. In Washington state, stalking becomes what’s called a gross misdemeanor under the Revised Code of Washington 9A.46.110 when:
- Without lawful authority, a person intentionally and repeatedly harasses or follows another person.
- The person being harassed or followed is placed in fear that the stalker intends to hurt them, another person, or their property.
- The feeling of fear is one that any reasonable person in the same situation would experience.
Also, the stalker must:
- Intend to frighten, intimidate, or harass the person.
- Know, or reasonably should know, that the person is afraid, intimidated, or harassed.
Misdemeanors may not sound serious, but they definitely are. Being convicted of a gross misdemeanor in Washington state can be devastating for your employment prospects and reputation—not to mention the jail time.
Penalties For Misdemeanor Stalking Include:
- Up to 364 days in jail.
- A $5,000 fine.
Although most stalking offenses are misdemeanors, stalking can also be a felony in Washington state under certain conditions.
According to the Revised Code of Washington 9A.46.110, stalking is considered a Class B Felony if any single one of the following conditions applies:
- The stalker has previously been convicted of harassment of the same person, as defined in RCW 9A.46.060.
- The stalking violates any protective order.
- The stalker has previously been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony stalking offense for another person.
- The stalker was armed with a deadly weapon, as defined in RCW 9.94A.825.
- (A) The alleged victim is a law enforcement officer, judge, juror, attorney, or any other public employee or official.
(B) The accused stalked the alleged victim as retaliation for an act the alleged victim performed during the course of their official duties or to influence their official duties.
- The stalker’s alleged victim is a current, former, or prospective witness, and the stalking was in retaliation for testimony.
Felony charges in the state of Washington are serious business and often lead to prison time.
Penalties For Felony Stalking:
- Up to 10 years in prison.
- Up to a $20,000 fine.
More Need To Know Information
Stalking can be one of the most confusing crimes to convict or defend against. That’s why beyond the letter of the law, there’s definitely some other ‘need to know’ information about stalking in Washington state.
From possible additional charges to some last-minute tips, here are just a few more facts about stalking in Washington state:
Harassment in Washington State
Harassment and stalking are interrelated crimes in Washington state because of how the law is written. That means if you’re charged with stalking, there’s a possibility you could also be charged with harassment.
Under the Revised Code of Washington 9A.46.020, a person will be charged with harassment if they threaten to do any of the following:
- Cause bodily injury to someone.
- Cause physical damage to the property of the victim.
- Subject someone to physical confinement or restraint.
- Maliciously do any other act which is intended to substantially harm the person threatened.
On top of that, harassment, like stalking, has both a misdemeanor and felony form. So you can also be charged with a Class C felony for harassment, which could lead to up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Domestic Violence Designation
According to the Stalking Resource Center, 66% of women and 41% of men who experience stalking were stalked by a current or former partner.
That’s an important statistic because if stalking occurs between current or past partners or a number of other related parties, then it may be considered for a domestic violence designation, which can lead to further charges for the accused.
No Means No
Finally, a note about how to avoid stalking charges in the state of Washington. Always remember, under the Revised Code of Washington 9A.46.110:
“Attempts to contact or follow the person after being given actual notice that the person does not want to be contacted or followed constitutes prima facie evidence that the stalker intends to intimidate or harass the person.”
This quite simply means if someone tells you not to contact or follow them, and you continue to do so, this will heavily weigh against you in court. So just remember, no means no.
Accused of Stalking?
If you’ve been accused of stalking, contact a lawyer right away. If you’re looking for Washington’s best, look no further than Court and Michelle Will.
This husband and wife team has the experience you need to help the truth come out. They’ll handle your case and give you the peace of mind you need to keep going.
For more information, contact Will & Will today.