Domestic Violence Aggravated Stalking
Stalking is a high-level misdemeanor in Florida, meaning convicts can face up to 12 months in county jail. However, if there are aggravating circumstances, the charge gets bumped up to a third-degree felony - punishable by a full five years in a state prison - not to mention lengthy probation and hefty fines.
Domestic violence in Florida can involve family or household members, co-parents, or those in dating relationships.
Per F.S. 784.048(3), domestic violence aggravated stalking can be charged when there is an allegation a person willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly followed, harassed, or cyberstalked another person, resulting in significant emotional distress, AND one of the following circumstances also applies:
- A credible threat. These are verbal and non-verbal threats (including those delivered via electronic messages and implied by a pattern of intimidating conduct) that impose a reasonable fear of threatened safety on the victim. Prosecutors need to show the accused had the apparent ability/means to carry out that threat, but not necessarily that they truly intended to.
- An injunction for protection. If the accuser is the subject of an injunction for protection against the accused for repeat, sexual, or dating violence and the accused continues stalking/harassing them anyway, it’s a felony.
- Victim is a minor. If the accuser in a Florida domestic violence stalking case is 16 or younger, the charge is enhanced.
- Accused is a sex offender. If you have a previous conviction for a sex offense, then the subsequent stalking, harassment, or cyberstalking charge will be a felony.
These aggravating factors make a major difference in the severity of penalties. Even if it is not possible for a defense lawyer to have the case dismissed outright (as is always our primary goal), bargaining to reduce the charge to one that omits the “aggravated” element - or to a lesser charge entirely - may still be on the table. The amount and strength of the evidence is going to play a big role in the outcome.Severity of a Domestic Violence Aggravated Stalking Conviction
As Fort Lauderdale defense lawyers, we’ve noted there is sometimes a tendency among defendants in these cases to fail to appreciate the seriousness of this charge. It probably has something to do with the fact that most defendants view the events leading to their arrest as part of an ongoing, unpleasant chapter or heated exchange stemming from a long, messy divorce, break-up, or child custody dispute where both sides have been nasty to each other at one time or another. However, we cannot stress this enough: A conviction for domestic violence aggravated stalking will almost certainly deprive you of your freedom, cost you thousands of dollars (maybe even tens of thousands), upend any existing child custody arrangements you have, probably result in a restraining order, and stain your permanent record for the rest of your life.
To further explain the risk, it’s worth pointing out that aggravated stalking ranks fairly high in Florida’s felony point system.
All felonies in Florida are assigned a 1-10 “level,” each with a corresponding point value. A Level 1 offense carries a point value of 4, while a Level 10 carries a point value of 116. Typically, if your score is less than 22, your case will be treated as a third-degree felony, with the judge only imposing prison if it’s determined a non-prison sentence would present a danger to the community. If your charges amount to 22 or more points but less than 44, you may be eligible for a non-state prison sanction, such as jail time, house arrest, and probation. Anything over 44 points, and you’re likely going to prison for a spell.
Aggravated stalking with a credible threat is a Level 6 offense in Florida, which carries 36 points. Same for aggravated stalking of a person under 16-years-old. However, aggravated stalking in violation of an injunction for protection against repeat violence, sexual violence, dating violence, or domestic violence is a Level 7 offense, which carries 56 points. In both cases, it’s likely you’ll be facing either jail or prison.
Your defense attorney may be able to plea bargain for a lesser penalty, but it’s always better to avoid conviction if at all possible. Downward departures from statutory sentencing guidelines may be granted if your attorney can present mitigating circumstances, such as:
- This was an isolated incident and the defendant is remorseful.
- The defendant is a youthful offender.
- The defendant has a mental disorder that requires treatment - and the defendant agrees to receive that treatment.
- The defendant does not have the capacity to understand that his/her actions were criminal OR his/her ability to conduct themselves as required by law is impaired.
- The defendant was under another person’s domination or extreme duress during commission of the crime.
If a conviction for domestic violence aggravated stalking involved some type of sexual battery or lewd lascivious conduct, the prison sentence imposed will run consecutively to that of the sex crime sentence. Usually, when there are multiple convictions stemming from the same case, courts will allow sentences to be served concurrently - meaning they overlap, ultimately resulting in a shorter sentence. But in this case, sentences for domestic violence aggravated stalking in conjunction with a sexual assault must be served one after the other.
We spell out these penalties not to scare anyone, but rather to drive home the point that if you are accused of domestic violence aggravated stalking, then vigorously defending yourself against these charges must take top priority in your life.
Investing in the services of a South Florida defense attorney with extensive experience specifically in domestic violence and stalking cases is an investment in your future.
If you have been charged with Domestic Stalking, call the South Florida criminal defense lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm at (954) 761-4011 for quality legal representation.