Although stalking is not always classified as crimes of violence, stalking has a documented propensity to precede violence. For this reason, charges for stalking come with serious criminal penalties that demand on whether the crime is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
The crime of stalking or cyberstalking is typically classified as a first-degree misdemeanor. Florida law provides for three different ways that a stalking allegation can be classified as aggravating stalking, a third-degree felony.
After stalking allegations are made, the victim might also file a protective order or injunction against stalking violence, domestic violence, dating violence, or repeat violence. Any violation of the injunction might result in additional charges for aggravated stalking.
Attorney for Stalking Charges in Tampa, FL
After an accusation of stalking, cyberstalking or aggravated stalking in Florida, then contact a criminal defense attorney at Sammis Law Firm. Our attorneys work hard to fight these types of serious criminal charges.
We also represent clients after they are served with an injunction for protection against stalking under Section 784.0485, Florida Statutes.
From our main office in downtown Tampa, we represent people accused of stalking throughout Tampa and Plant City in Hillsborough County, St. Petersburg and Clearwater in Pinellas County, Bartow or Lakeland in Polk County, New Port Richey or Dade City in Pasco County, or Brooksville in Hernando County, FL.
False Accusations of Stalking or Cyberstalking
When most people think of “stalking,” they imagine a stranger who becomes obsessed with another person after a chance meeting. In the vast majority of these cases, the person making the accusation knows the person accused of the crime quite well.
Stalking allegations are most commonly alleged between individuals who are “domestically” related because of blood or marriage. These types of domestic violence allegations can also arise between people who have a child together, or previously lived together in a romantic relationship.
Even people who have previously dated each other or been romantically involved in a straight, gay or lesbian relationship can suddenly find themselves accused of “stalking” or “aggravated stalking” when the romantic relationship ends.
The allegations can also arise between people who are not domestically related such as neighbors, roommates, friends, or business associates.
When the parties know each other well, the motive and opportunity for false or exaggerated allegations arise. False allegations are used to gain the upper hand in an upcoming divorce, family law proceeding, custody battle, or for financial reasons.
False allegations might be motivated by a desire to remove another person from living in (or even going to) a home or business.
Florida’s Stalking Statute – First Degree Misdemeanor
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(2), the offense of stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor. The criminal offense of “stalking” requires that the prosecutor for the State of Florida prove the following elements at trial beyond all reasonable doubt:
The Defendant repeatedly, maliciously, and willfully did one of the following to the victim:
- Harassed, which means to engage in a course of conduct directed at the victim which serves no legitimate purpose and causes the victim substantial emotional distress; or
- Cyberstalked, which means to engage in a course of conduct to communicate or cause communication of language, words or images through the use of electronic communications or electronic mail which is directed at the victim, and serves no legitimate purpose, but instead causes the victim substantial emotional distress.
Florida’s Four Types of Aggravated Stalking
In Florida, a felony charge for “aggravated stalking” can be filed under subsection 3, 4, 5 or 7. Any aggravated stalking charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in Florida State Prison and a $5,000 fine.
Each felony offense of aggravated stalking is assigned to a level according to the severity of the offense, commensurate with the harm or potential for harm to the community that is caused by the offense, as determined by statute.
The offense severity ranking chart shows the severity level for each form of aggravated stalking including:
- Level 6 Offense – Aggravated stalking with a credible threat
- Level 6 Offense – Aggravated stalking of a person under 16 years old
- Level 7 Offense – Aggravated stalking – the violation of an injunction or court order
- Level 7 Offense – Aggravated stalking – the violation of a specified court order
Stalking with a Credible Threat
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(3), the offense of aggravated stalking requires the prosecutor to prove the following additional elements:
- The Defendant made a credible threat, which means a threat against the life of or a threat to cause bodily injury to the victim and the threat was made with the intent to cause the victim to fear for her safety; and
- The threat was made with the intent to place the victim in reasonable fear of bodily injury or death to the victim, or the victim’s child, sibling, spouse, or parent.
Stalking After an Injunction for Protection
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(4), the offense of aggravated stalking requires the prosecutor to prove the following additional elements:
- The defendant committed stalking after an injunction for protection against repeat violence, sexual violence, or dating violence pursuant to s. 784.046, or an injunction for protection against domestic violence pursuant to s. 741.30, or after any other court-imposed prohibition of conduct toward the subject person or that person’s property.
Stalking a Child Under 16 Years Old
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(5), the offense of aggravated stalking requires the prosecutor to prove the following additional elements:
- The victim is a child under 16 years of age.
Stalking With Specified No Contact Order
Under Florida Statute § 784.048(7), the offense of aggravated stalking requires the prosecutor to prove the following additional elements:
- The defendant commits talking after having been sentenced for a violation of:
- Section 794.011 for sexual battery;
- Section 800.04 for lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age; or
- Section 847.0135(5) for certain computer transmission; and
- The defendant was prohibited from contacting the victim of the offense under s. 921.244 for a specified order of no contact.
The punishment imposed for this offense must run consecutive to any former sentence imposed for a conviction for any offense under the following:
- Section 794.011 prohibiting sexual battery;
- Section 847.0135(5) specified computer transmissions to a child; or
- Section 800.04 prohibiting lewd or lascivious offenses committed upon or in the presence of persons less than 16 years of age.
Is Stalking Classified as a Crime of Violence?
Stalking only requires “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follow[ing], harass[ing], or cyberstalk[ing] another person.” § 784.048(2), Fla. Stat. “As such, it is not a direct act of violence.
Instead, stalking is included among actionable violent offenses because of its documented propensity to precede violence. The inclusion of staking “in the definition of ‘violence’ in both statutes thus causes the statutory definition to diverge considerably from the colloquial meaning of the word. For purposes of domestic and nondomestic violence statutes, stalking is violence.” Steven Scott Stephens, Injunction For Protection—Stalking, in 23 Fla. Practice, Fla. Family Law § 14:14 (West 2018).
“The stalking statute was designed to protect women from being harassed by ex-husbands or former boyfriends, by ensuring that victims did not have to be injured or threatened with death before stopping a stalker’s harassment.” Lopez v. Lopez, 922 So. 2d 408, 410 (Fla. 4th DCA 2006) (citing Curry v State, 811 So. 2d 736, 741 (Fla. 4th DCA 2002)).
Related crimes that often precede violence include installing a tracking device, intercepting wire communications, sexual cyber harassment, and making a written threat to kill.
Stalking is an Exception to the Misdemeanor Arrest Warrant Requirement
Under Florida Statute 784.048(6), stalking is an exception to the arrest warrant requirement because a law enforcement officer is permitted to arrest, without a warrant, any person that he or she has probable cause to believe has committed a stalking or cyberstalking offense even if the offense was not committed in the presence of the officer.
784.048 Stalking definitions and penalties – Visit the website of the Florida Senate or Online Sunshine, the website of the Florida Legislature, to find information about stalking, cyberstalking and aggravated stalking charges under Florida Statute Section 784.048. The statute explains the penalties for the different forms of aggravated stalking involving a credible threat, after the issuance of an injunction against violence, when the victim is under 16 years of age, or after a conviction for sexual battery, lewd and lascivious molestation, or soliciting a minor.
Criminal Stalking Resources for Victims – Visit the website of the Stalking Resource Center (SRC) which was created by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women in partnership with the National Center for Victims of Crime. The Stalking Resource Center has trained more than 100,000 professionals who work with victims in all 50 states, two US Territories, and the District of Columbia.
Finding a Lawyer for Stalking Crimes in Florida
If you were arrested for stalking or aggravated stalking in the greater Tampa Bay area, then call an experienced criminal defense attorney with the Sammis Law Firm, P.A. Our attorneys are on call to answer your questions during normal working hours and also on weekends or holidays.
Both the felony and misdemeanor version of “stalking” are serious criminal offenses with serious criminal penalties. Find out what you need to do right now to protect yourself against false allegations of stalking.
Our attorneys are experienced in representing both men and women charged with stalking, aggravated stalking, domestic violence battery, and other serious allegations involving violence or the threat of violence. We fight cases throughout Hillsborough County including Tampa and Plant City, as well as the surrounding areas of Tampa Bay including Bartow or Lakeland in Polk County, Dade City or New Port Richey in Pasco County or Clearwater or St. Petersburg in Pinellas County.
If you were served with a petition for protection or temporary restraining order for stalking pursuant to Section 784.0485, then contact us to discuss how we fight these actions.
This article was last updated by Jason D. Sammis on Friday, May 1, 2020.