A stalking charge is not something to take lightly. Connecticut has tough laws designed to protect citizens from dangerous and aggressive behavior. This includes several laws prohibiting various degrees of stalking. If you have been accused of stalking someone, it is important to understand the severity of the charges and respond appropriately.
In Connecticut, an individual can be charged with stalking if their willful and repeated behavior causes another person to be fearful for their personal well-being. The degree of the charges and possible penalties depend on the level of intent and the criminal history of the accused.
Examples of Stalking
It may be hard to recognize what could be classified as inappropriate behavior. In Connecticut, the statutes regarding stalking are nonspecific and allow for a broad interpretation. The law does mandate that the actions be willful and repeated and cause the other person to fear for their well-being. Circumstances that could lead to a stalking charge include:
- Repeatedly showing up at or calling someone’s workplace uninvited
- Waiting for someone at places they are known to frequent
- Willfully driving by a person’s home on more than one occasion
- Sending harassing notes, messages, or unwanted gifts to someone, either directly or through their place of employment, or known associates
If someone feels that your behavior is enough to elicit criminal stalking charges, they will often seek to press additional charges as well. These charges can increase the potential penalties and make your case more complicated. While there are various charges that can accompany a stalking charge, typical offenses include:
- Breaking and entering
- Intimidation of a witness
Understanding the Severity of the Charges
If you have been accused of stalking in Connecticut, there are a few different charges the prosecutor can choose to pursue. The specific charges will determine the appropriate defense and the potential consequences. The laws regarding these charges are outlined in Connecticut General Statutes Sec. 53a-181c through Sec. 53a-181f.
Third Degree Stalking
Stalking in the third degree is the least severe stalking charge under current Connecticut statutes. To be charged with stalking in the third degree, the victim must have a reasonable fear for their personal safety or suffer emotional distress as a result of your reckless behavior. The law outlines repeated following or lying in wait as egregious and unlawful behavior.
Third degree stalking is a Class B misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by a fine up to $1,000, up to six months in jail, or both.
Second Degree Stalking
The differentiation between third degree stalking and second degree is the level of intent. In order to be found guilty of second degree stalking, the state must prove that you knowingly made the victim fearful for their personal safety. In addition to their safety, a person can make a claim that they are fearful for their continued employment because of your behavior. As with third degree stalking, the behavior must occur willfully and repeatedly. Connecticut General Statute § 53a-181d further expands the definition to include threatening, surveilling, harassing, or sending unwanted gifts. A person can be found guilty of stalking in the second degree if their actions cause significant mental or psychological distress
Second degree stalking is a Class A misdemeanor. Punishment can include up to one year in jail and/or a fine up to $2,000.
First Degree Stalking
First degree stalking is a Class D felony offense and as such, carries the greatest penalties. Persons found guilty of first degree stalking can face one to five years in prison, a fine up to $5,000 or both. A first degree stalking charge is generally a result of repeated offenses or other aggravating circumstances. Generally, if there has been a previous stalking conviction, the accused is in violation of a court order, or the victim is under the age of 16, a first degree stalking charge will be made.
Electronic Stalking and Cyberstalking
A person can be charged with electronic stalking if they utilize a global positioning system (GPS) or similar electronic device monitor another individual, consequently causing said person to fear for their well being. Electronic stalking is a Class B misdemeanor.
Electronic stalking is not the same offense as cyberstalking. Under Connecticut law, cyberstalking is prosecuted under CGS § 53a-182b (first degree harassment) or CGS § 53a-183 (second degree harassment). Both statutes have very specific requirements. First degree harassment can only be charged if a direct threat has been made and second degree harassment only relates to direct messages. First degree harassment is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years and prison and a $5,000 fine, whereas second degree harassment is a Class C misdemeanor with a maximum punishment of three months in prison and a $500 fine.
What You Need to Know if You Are Accused of Stalking
Just because someone has accused you of stalking them, that does not mean that you will be found guilty. The specific facts of the case will determine how the case is resolved. That being said, pending charges can have an immediate impact on your livelihood. The way you react can affect the outcome of your case. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- Do not attempt to contact the alleged victim. This will further complicate your case and make your defense more difficult.
- Do not make any statements to the police or hand over any potential evidence until you have spoken to an attorney.
- If you have an ongoing domestic relations case you should contact your lawyer right away. Even if you are found not guilty, the charges can affect the outcome of your case, so it is important that your attorney has ample time to get ahead of the charges.
Don’t Hesitate to Hire a Qualified Professional
Stalking is a serious charge that can lead to substantial jail time and other long-term consequences. That is why it is imperative that you speak to a qualified criminal defense attorney right away if you face stalking charges. A criminal defense lawyer with experience dealing with various types of stalking cases can help you determine the best approach for your case.