Is Stalking a Crime?

While stalking is often associated with a stranger lurking in the dark, watching their victim from afar without their knowledge, various behaviors can lead to stalking charges in New York. Regrettably, many individuals who are charged with stalking don’t realize their behavior warrants criminal charges. Nevertheless, stalking charges can result in long-term imprisonment or steep monetary fines if convicted. If you’ve been accused of stalking, it’s in your best interest to enlist the help of an experienced Rockland County Criminal Defense Attorney who can help mount a strong defense. Please continue reading to learn the potential penalties you could face for stalking in New York. 

What Constitutes Stalking?

Stalking is defined as a person “intentionally, and for no legitimate purpose, engaging in a course of conduct directed at a specific person, and knowing or reasonably should have known that such conduct was likely to cause reasonable fear of material harm to the victim,  their property, their family, or their acquaintance.” Simply put, it’s a pattern of repeated and unwanted attention that creates a credible threat of harm. The following behaviors may result in stalking charges in New York:

  • Following or watching a victim
  • Trespassing or being near a victim’s home or workplace
  • Stealing or vandalizing a victim’s mail or property
  • Initiating unwanted contact via phone, text, mail, email, etc.
  • Tracking or monitoring a victim

What Are the Potential Penalties for Stalking?

Under New York law, there are four grades of stalking offenses. Numerous factors play into the classification of the crime, including an offender’s criminal history, whether the alleged victim suffered any injuries, and whether a weapon was displayed or used in the commission of a stalking offense.

Stalking in the fourth degree is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by three months of incarceration and up to $500 in fines. The person engaging in this conduct of stalking must either know or reasonably should know that their behavior will:

  • Cause reasonable fear or material harm to the victim, their immediate family, or acquaintances
  • Cause harm to the victim’s mental or emotional state or that of their family or acquaintances
  • Cause a reasonable fear that the victim’s employment or business is threatened

Stalking in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year of incarceration and up to $1,000 in fines. It’s crucial to note that the degrees of stalking escalate based on whether they have been convicted before, are accused of stalking multiple victims, or have stalked a person under the age of 14. Third-degree stalking involves:

  • Stalking three or more victims
  • Committing fourth-degree stalking within ten years of a prior conviction

Stalking in the second degree is a Class E felony, punishable by up to four years of incarceration and up to $5,000 in fines. Stalking in the second degree is the same as stalking in the third degree with the addition of at least one of the following:

  • Use of a weapon
  • A second conviction within five years
  • The victim is under the age of 14, and the offender is over 21
  • Stalking ten or more victims

First-degree stalking is a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years of incarceration and up to $5,000 in fines. First-degree stalking is the same as third and second-degree stalking with intentional or reckless physical harm to victims.

A stalking charge will result in a criminal record, which can haunt you for years to come. Please don’t hesitate to contact a seasoned attorney from the Law Office of Carl Spector, who can help you fight to avoid these harsh consequences.