How is stalking defined in California?

It can be difficult to pinpoint the behaviors that count as stalking in California, especially if you are accused of something you did not intend or your actions were misinterpreted. For example, if you asked a co-worker out and she refused, then you approached her later to engage in friendly conversation and she accused you of stalking her, you might be confused as to what you did wrong. It is important to understand the actions that can result in you being charged with a stalking offense.

According to FindLaw, stalking can include several behaviors that make a person feel intimidated, threatened and afraid for his or her safety. The following behaviors can count as stalking:

  • Sending a person repeated text messages, posts on social media sites, emails and phone calls
  • Threatening to harm the other person if he or she doesn’t agree to go on a date or resume a relationship
  • Damaging the other person’s personal property
  • Showing up unexpectedly and unexplainably in places the other person frequents

Stalking is not necessarily limited to a person one has romantic feelings for. For example, a woman might become obsessed with an Instagram celebrity and begin following her on social media, bombarding her with comments and “likes” and trying to find her in public.

In California, a stalking conviction can result in a year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. A stalking conviction after a prior felony conviction of spousal or child abuse or after violating a protection order or making threats can significantly increase the penalties. Since this topic is complex, this information is not meant to substitute for legal advice.

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