Criminal stalking in Massachusetts is a very serious charge that can result in serious penalties.
To be convicted of the crime, prosecutors generally must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- Over a period of time, the defendant knowingly engaged in a pattern of conduct or series of acts, involving at least three stalking incidents, against the victim.
- Those acts would cause a reasonable person to suffer substantial emotional distress.
- Those acts did cause the victim to actually become seriously alarmed or annoyed.
- The defendant took those actions willfully and maliciously, as opposed to by mistake or accident.
- The defendant made a threat with the intention of placing the victim in imminent fear of death or bodily injury.
Stalking acts do not have to be made in-person to the victim and may be communicated by any means. For example, stalking acts can be made over the telephone, through emails or Facebook, by mail, and of course through direct communication with the victim.
As you can see, the crime of stalking may be different from what you had believed. In other words, you generally can’t be convicted of stalking if you ask someone out on a date more than once or spend too much time on the Internet and are considered a “cyber-stalker.”
Instead, to be convicted of stalking in Massachusetts, a defendant typically must be accused of actually causing serious alarm to the victim through a course of conduct over time. Additionally, the crime requires intent. So the defendant must have intended to threaten the victim with the goal of placing the victim in actual fear of death or bodily injury.
Criminal Penalties for Stalking
Given the severe nature of the crime of stalking, Massachusetts hands out very heavy penalties for the crime.
Generally, someone convicted of stalking faces a possible five-year prison sentence, with no mandatory minimum sentence. (M.G.L. c. 265, § 43). However, someone who commits the crime while in violation of a restraining order, no-contact order, or other judgment or order faces a minimum one-year prison term. This mandatory minimum penalty shall not be suspended or reduced meaning that the defendant is assured of spending at least one year in jail if the defendant stalks in violation of an order.
For repeat stalking offenders, the state effectively doubles the penalties. So if someone is convicted of stalking and has a prior conviction for the same crime, that person faces a mandatory minimum two-year prison sentence and possible ten-year prison term.
Contact an Attorney
Stalking is a serious crime in Massachusetts. But for whatever reason, individuals are quick to accuse others of being stalkers even for acts that fall far short of the crime.
If you are accused of a stalking crime in Massachusetts, you will want an experienced defense attorney on your side. The penalties for stalking are very severe; however, it can also be very difficult to prove the crime. An experienced Massachusetts criminal law attorney can review the facts and circumstances surrounding the alleged stalking incident and help you review your options and possible defenses.