In 1990, the California legislature enacted anti-stalking laws. This was as a response to two incidents involving high-profile celebrities. First, Theresa Saldana, an actress, was stabbed by a stalker and second, Rebecca Schaeffer, also an actress, was murdered. These incidents played a crucial role in the birth of Penal Code 646.9(a). Under this Penal Code, stalking is defined as the act of intentionally, maliciously, and repeatedly following another person with the intent to harass, threaten or make them fear for their safety or the safety of their immediate family. Stalking is typically charged as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances revolving around an offense. If you are convicted, you risk spending up to 5 years behind bars.
The unpredictability of stalkers is what makes them highly dangerous. Physical and cyberstalking have become more prevalent over the years, making judges show no leniency when setting bail. Because of the complex nature of stalking cases, it may take several months for a trial date to be set. Until then, you are innocent until proven guilty. This makes it imperative to secure your freedom from jail through a bail bonds agent.
Criminal Stalking In California Defined
Any obsession can be detrimental to the human psyche. Staking often happens once the perpetrator becomes obsessed with a particular individual. While a good number of stalking cases begin with no intent to cause harm, the situation can turn deadly because obsessions often encourage unhealthy fantasies. With time, fantasies can transform into irresistible urges where a perpetrator finds it impossible to maintain distance.
California Penal Code 646.9 makes it illegal for a person to stalk another. For a perpetrator to be convicted, the prosecutor must prove two vital elements beyond a reasonable doubt. They include:
- The accused willfully/intentionally and maliciously harassed or repeatedly followed their victim
- The accused made a valid threat to instill fear of safety to the victim or their immediate family.
It remains imperative to understand that a defendant may not be guilty if they were engaging in constitutionally protected activities. A few examples of constitutionally protected activities include:
- Engaging in legal protest
- Exercising the right to free speech
- Taking part in a legal assembly
Let’s now have a look at the legal definitions of the keywords used in PC 646.9
Intentionally, Maliciously, and Repeatedly
To do something intentionally means that you engage in an action on purpose or willfully. On the other hand, maliciously means engaging in an illegal act to cause injury, annoyance, or disturbance. The prosecution will also need to show that you engaged in an action on purpose, with ill motives, and you did this more than once (repeatedly).
Any conduct directed to another individual that causes fear, annoyance, or mental torment can be termed harassment. Usually, an act is deemed harassment when it serves no valid purpose, and it is conducted repeatedly or over a certain period, however short.
Penal Code 646.9 also uses the keyword “credible threat.” It means engaging in conduct that makes another person fear for their safety or that of their immediate family. Moreover, for any action to be deemed a “credible threat,” it must be one that the perpetrator appears to have the ability to carry out verbally, in writing, or electronically. A credible threat can also be implied by a sequence of conduct or a blend of both acts and statements.
The court must analyze the facts and circumstances around a case to determine whether the victim was under “reasonable fear” for their safety. In California, the court has the mandate to decide what amounts to a genuine threat of safety.
Even though the definition of a “true threat” is not clear-cut, there are acts or statements that are not perceived to cause any threat of safety.
- Joking expressions
- Remarks made under the constitutional right of free speech
- Exaggerated political statements
Under Penal Code 646.9, another keyword used is “immediate family.” This refers to the following classes of people:
- Child, spouse, parent
- Persons living in a victim’s household
- Persons related to the victim by blood, such as siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren
Moreover, it is imperative to understand that any act that is “willfully,” “maliciously,” and “repeatedly” conducted by one person to “harass,” “threaten,” or cause “reasonable fear” to another or their “immediate family” can amount to stalking. This means that you can be charged for stalking for a long list of conducts, including repeatedly sending gifts, emails, notes, or social media messages to the victim.
Note that there are different types of stalkers. However, all stalkers have a twisted misconception that their victim belongs to them. This means any attempts to ask them to stop may fall on deaf ears.
The different types of stalkers include:
a. The Intimacy Seeking stalker
Often, intimacy-seeking stalking stems from a lack of a confidant or mere loneliness. The stalker desires to have a relationship with the victim, usually a stranger or an acquaintance. In most cases, this type of stalking is fueled by mental instabilities that give the perpetrator delusional beliefs about their victim.
For instance, they may believe that they have a relationship with their victim and the love is mutual. Even though they may have a nonexistent relationship with the victim, they may enjoy the gratification that comes from the false belief that they are closely linked, have an emotional connection, and have or can have an intimate relationship in the future.
b. The Rejected Stalker
Unlike intimacy-seeking stalking that can stem from nowhere, rejected stalking arises from the breakdown or failure of a close, often sexual or intimate relationship. At first, the sole intention of the rejected stalker is to reconcile a relationship. However, if this is not possible, they may begin to plot how to exact revenge for the perceived rejection.
Sometimes, the rejected stalker may appear to want to rekindle a relationship. In other instances, they may resume extended stalking and will typically seem angry and in need of revenge. The new behavior serves as a substitute for the dead relationship, allowing the stalker to maintain a feeling of closeness with a victim. It may also enable the perpetrator to find opportunities to damage the self-esteem of their victim.
c. The Resentful Stalker
When the stalker begins to feel mistreated because of delusional injustices and humiliations stemming from the fake relationship, they may resolve resentful stalking. This type of stalking can also arise from mental instabilities that give the stalker paranoid beliefs.
At first, the drive behind stalking may be to even the score or enact revenge on the person who “mistreated or humiliated them.” The mere fear that someone is stalking you gives the perpetrator the satisfaction of feeling in control of the victim. Often, the resentful stalker will have some form of justification for their actions.
d. The Incompetent Suitor
The incompetent suitor can target a stranger or an acquaintance just like the intimacy seeker. The main difference is that the perpetrator will, in this case, not have the motivation to establish a loving relationship with their victim over a date or a sexual encounter. They instead draw gratification from being indifferent or insensitive to the distress of their victim.
Often, the incompetent suitor is lonely, has poor social skills, and is also inept at relationships. This may stem from cognitive limitations or intellectual disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders.
e. The Predatory Stalker
There are more male predatory stalkers than females. Predatory stalking typically stems from deviant sexual interests or practices. Such stalkers are the most dangerous and more likely to assault their victims sexually. Usually, they enjoy a sense of gratification from following unsuspecting victims and having a twisted sense of power or control over them.
Under California Penal Code § 1275, a judge or magistrate has the power to weigh several variables before deciding how to set bail, lower it, increase it or deny it. According to the bail schedule, the bail amount for stalking can be set as high as $100,000.
Other aspects a judge must consider when setting bail include:
- Whether the release of an accused can endanger the community
- Whether an accused is a flight risk based on their ability or past tendencies to skip town to dodge court hearings
- The perceived severity of an offense and whether it involved violence, the threat of bodily harm, or the use of a deadly weapon
- A defendant’s criminal history
- The presence of past FTAs (failure to appear)
- Whether the accused is on probation or parole
When evaluating the severity of an offense, predatory stalkers and the rejected stalker are often seen to be the most dangerous. As such, a judge may deny bail or set a high bail amount. Moreover, even though stalking is a wobbler offense, it is often charged as a felony if the accused has been convicted or accused of a similar crime in the past or has a history of violating restraining orders. This is regardless of whether the past case(s) involved a different individual.
Irrespective of the bail hearing outcome, we can offer the much-needed financing to get you or your loved one out of jail within the least time possible.
Best Legal Defenses For Penal Code 646.9 PC Charges
Stalking is a serious offense in California. While this is the case, it is not alien for the accused to be the victim in a scenario. Sometimes, the alleged victim may have ulterior motives and impose false charges as an act of revenge or out of jealousy, spite, or anger. In other times, claims of stalking are exaggerated, especially in situations stemming from a relationship breakup or divorce.
The good news is that you can beat stalking charges as long as you have the best legal defense in your corner. By securing your freedom from jail using our bail bonds, you can focus on putting up a fearless defense team that can have your charges reduced or even dismissed.
Here are some of the best legal defenses for PC 646.9 accusations:
No Credible Threat
Proving the element of credible threat is often an uphill task, even for seasoned prosecutors. Therefore, the defense can table evidence to show that the alleged victim had no reason to fear for their safety or that of their immediate family. For instance, your lawyer could argue that you did so in a jokingly fashion even if you made a threat.
No Intention to Cause Fear
Harassing or threatening another person can cause fear. However, the conduct that falls under threats and harassment is not clear-cut. This makes it possible for your attorney to argue that while you may have thrown around some unkind words, your aim was not to cause fear. This defense could work out well if you had no power to execute the alleged threat.
You engaged In a Constitutionally Protected conduct/Activity
Constitutionally protected activities such as legal protests cannot be deemed stalking. While an alleged offender can protest in the alleged victim’s presence, this doesn’t amount to stalking. With a competent lawyer, you can raise this argument and hopefully have your charges dismissed.
What Are The Penalties For Stalking (Violating Penal Code 646.9)?
California Penal Code 646.9 classifies stalking as a wobbler offense. In other words, it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of a case.
If an offense is charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties are less severe than is the case of felony chase. They include:
- Probation instead of incarceration, or
- Up to 1 year jail time
- A fine of $1,000 maximum
When stalking is handled prosecuted as a felony, the penalties are harsher. They include the following:
- Maximum imprisonment for five years in state prison
- A fine not exceeding $1,000
Typically, there are civil penalties on top of the criminal penalties you may face if convicted for stalking. However, as long as the prosecution can prove the elements of a crime and have you convicted, you may a victim can recover the following:
- Compensatory damages — Compensation for property damage or personal injury
- Punitive damages — Compensation imposed by the court to punish the accused for gross misconduct
What Happens If I Can’t Afford To Post Bail After Being Accused Of Stalking?
As aforementioned, the bail amount for stalking charges can be set as high as $100,000. A judge can lower or increase this amount based on the seriousness of an offense. Whether the bail amount is set as inscribed in the bail schedule or a judge increases it, your financial situation may hinder you from being able to secure your freedom from jail.
If this happens, your attorney can request a bail hearing and file a bail motion. During the hearing, your legal representative can argue that the bail is too high and should be reduced based on various aspects.
Unfortunately, scheduling for a bail hearing is not a guarantee that your bail amount will be reduced or you will be released on your own recognizance. Even though the courts should perceive you as an innocent person until proven guilty, a judge is also obligated to set bail as though the allegations made against you were confirmed. It can be particularly problematic to persuade a judge if you have a criminal history.
The best option you have to quickly and conveniently secure your freedom is to turn to a bail bonds company. The company will only request a 10% maximum fee of the bail amount. You can then provide collateral or find a credible cosigner to get the bail process running immediately.
It is crucial to understand that the bail bond will not come without some strict responsibilities if you use a bail bond agent. You must show up for all hearings to prevent the risk of the courts seizing the bail money. If you miss your hearing and the money is lost, you have to repay it from your savings, paychecks, or the proceeds of the property you set as collateral. In addition to revoking the bail amount, a judge is also likely to issue a warrant for your arrest.
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If you, a friend, or a loved one requires a bail bond for stalking charges, we invite you to contact 24 Hour Online Bail Bonds. We are experienced, reliable, friendly and fast. Moreover, we offer our services round the clock throughout the year to ensure you can conveniently secure your release from jail. Let us take care of settling your bail so you can take care of winning your case. We serve Los Angeles, Riverside, Orange County, San Bernardino, and San Diego and can even lend a hand with inmate search if you are not sure where your loved one is held. So call us now at 800-930-8999, and let us do what we do best, reuniting families.