Often, stalking charges are related to romances gone awry or misread signals. If you have been charged with having stalked someone, you need to do everything you can to protect your rights and your future.
A Charleston stalking lawyer could offer invaluable advice on how to handle your case. It may be vital to schedule a time to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney to understand the laws at play and help you determine the most effective course of action.
How Does the Law Define Stalking in Charleston?
Stalking is any pattern of behavior which the actor intends to make the victim afraid. Stalking may include reasonable fear of any of the following:
- Physical harm
- Rape or other sexual assault
- Property damage
Stalking is the most severe crime described, and it is a felony. The court may sentence a convicted stalker to five years of incarceration years and a fine of up to $5,000. If the convicted defendant violated a restraining order, the punishment might increase ten years in prison and a $7,000 fine. Therefore, defendants should seek the services of a stalking defense attorney in Charleston.
Degrees of Penalties for Convicted Stalkers
The law defines stalking and harassment in the South Carolina Code §16-3-1700. There are several degrees of stalking and harassment that someone could be charged with, depending on the circumstances of the alleged offense.
Harassment in the First Degree
First-degree harassment is a pattern of intentional behavior that unreasonably and substantially intrudes on the alleged victim’s life. These actions have no legitimate purpose. It includes following a person around, damaging property, continued surveillance, or physical touch after someone has complained or filed an action. This could also include watching someone at their home, workplace, school, or other places the person frequents.
For a first offense, the court may find the actor guilty of a misdemeanor and put that person in jail for up to three years and fine them up to $1,000. If the actor violated a restraining order, the fine could increase up to $2,000. If the actor has a prior conviction, the second conviction is a felony, and the defendant may face up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Harassment in the Second Degree
Second-degree harassment requires the same reasonable and actual distress as noted for first-degree harassment. The court will look for a pattern of behavior, which causes fear in the alleged victim. The type of prohibited conduct includes email, phone calls, texting, and other repetitive actions.
For a first offense in the second degree, the court may sentence the actor to up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $200. If a court had previously convicted the actor or issued a restraining order, any subsequent act could lead to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. A dedicated attorney in Charleston could help someone understand the potential penalties for the stalking charge against them.
Reach Out to a Charleston Stalking Lawyer Today
If you have been accused of stalking or harassing someone, you may want to enlist the service of an attorney. A Charleston stalking lawyer could offer advice on how to respond to the police and prosecutor as well as help you assert your rights and make sure you mount an aggressive defense. Call today to learn how best to preserve your future.