If you are charged with stalking in Virginia, you must understand the nature of the offense and the potential consequences you may face if convicted. Stalking is both a misdemeanor and felony in our commonwealth, and the penalties can be severe. Hiring an experienced Manassas criminal defense attorney to defend you is crucial to avoid the harsh penalties that could change your life.
What Stalking Is in Virginia
In Virginia, stalking refers to a pattern of conduct placing an individual in reasonable fear of death, sexual assault, or bodily injury. Under Virginia Code § 18.2-60.3, the prosecutor must prove the following elements to establish stalking:
- Two or more actions. The accused must have engaged in two or more acts of stalking the victim. At least one incident of stalking must occur in Virginia, but other incidents can occur in other states.
- Directed at the victim. The accused must have directed their stalking behaviors or conduct at another person.
- Intent. The accused must have intended the victim to fear death, sexual assault, or bodily injury.
Many different actions can constitute stalking. Examples of stalking behaviors or conduct include the following:
- Repeatedly following the victim
- Appearing at the victim’s home, workplace, or other frequented locations
- Repeatedly sending the victim unwanted phone calls or texts
- Sending threatening messages or making them on social media sites
- Leaving unwanted gifts, letters, or items for the victim.
When Stalking Is Charged as a FelonyStalking would be a Class 6 felony if a person has been found guilty of a stalking offense within five years of the current charges. The prior conviction can be from another state.
Punishments for Stalking
The penalties for stalking in Virginia vary depending on whether the offense is charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor or Class 6 felony. It is important to note that subsequent convictions for stalking carry enhanced penalties. If convicted, an individual could face these punishments:
- Misdemeanor stalking. A person convicted of a first offense could be sentenced to a maximum penalty of a 12-month jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,500. In addition, a protective order could be entered requiring them to stay away from the victim.
- Felony stalking. If convicted of a Class 6 felony, a defendant could be sentenced to a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $2,500. However, the judge or jury can reduce the penalty to a jail sentence not to exceed 12 months and a maximum fine of $2,500. A no-contact order could also be entered.