Sometimes the criminal laws that we think will be the most simple actually turn out to be the most complicated. As criminal defense attorneys, we spend our days pouring over the criminal statute books attempting to find defenses for our clients to exploit. In doing so, we look for patterns in criminal laws and try to find an overall theme. In truth, in the time we have been doing that, we have failed to find any discernable pattern or though process that goes into the design of criminal laws. It is important to realize that laws are often put together in a slapdash manner as a result of special interest lobbying and not as a result of competent research and development.
One of the laws that falls victim to this process is the law criminalizing stalking and harassment. Anti domestic violence organizations, while they certainly represent a worthy cause, had a hand in crafting the wording of the law. This influence has resulted in an often overbroad and confusing criminal statute that extends to many people that it should not. If you have been charged with the offense of stalking or cyberstalking, don’t try to dissect the statute on your own, contact a competent criminal defense lawyer in St. Petersburg to help you out.Elements of Stalking
Florida Statute 784.048 criminalizes the act of stalking or cyberstalking. The statute provides a list of increasingly complicated definitions of what stalking actually is. That increased complication causes difficulty for those who have been charged with the offense. Under the statute, stalking is defined as the willful, malicious and repeated following, harassing or cyberstalking of another person. The statute also provides sub-definitions of each of those terms.
Harassment is defined as a course of conduct directed at a person that causes “severe emotional distress and serves no legitimate purpose.” A skilled St. Petersburg criminal defense attorney can look at the wording of that statute and see opportunities for defense. For example, a client charged with stalking by harassment may have caused a victim severe emotional distress, but the claim may be deficient as to one of the other elements. If the defense can show that their client did not engage in a “course of conduct” or a pattern of acts over a period of time, then the elements have not been met and the defendant should be found not guilty. Similarly, if there is a legitimate purpose to the conduct, even if it causes emotional distress, then no crime has been committed.
More recently, cyberstalking has become an issue in our society. With the advent of social media, it has become far easier for people to communicate with one another. While this is a great development for people who want to be in communication, it also results in people being empowered to engage in unwanted communication. Cyberstalking is defined by the law as engaging in a “course of conduct to communicate, or to cause to be communicated, words, images, or language by or through the use of electronic mail or electronic communication directed at a specific person, or accessing or attempting to access the online accounts or internent-connected home electronic systems of another person without that person’s permission, causing substantial emotional distress.
Cyberstalking, because it often involves the use of the internet, communication technology, and social media, can be much more difficult to prove. The more complicated technology becomes, the more complicated legal evidentiary issues arise. If you are facing charges for cyberstalking, you should contact a skilled St. Petersburg criminal lawyer with experience with technology related offenses who can craft the best defense for you.Speak to Our Lawyers Today
The attorneys at Hanlon Law are ready and able to defend you whether facing minor or serious charges. We have the skills and experience to obtain the very best results for you. Consult with us today at (727) 897-5413.