Dealing With Aggravated Stalking in Georgia
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Author: Philip Kim, Founder, Philip Kim Law, P.C.
Defense lawyer Philip Kim has committed his career to standing up for the accused, and protecting the rights and reputations of his valued clients. If you face criminal charges in Georgia, we can provide you with the skilled, effective defense representation you need.
Published on June 13, 2023.
What Is Aggravated Stalking?
Stalking involves following, contacting, or placing a person under surveillance without the person’s consent. These actions threaten the victim’s physical and mental health. They are criminalized all over the U.S., including the State of Georgia.
The victims in such cases may take out a temporary restraining order or protective order against the stalker, compelling them to keep their distance.
Stalking is ordinarily a misdemeanor offense. But when the stalker breaches the terms of an existing court order mandating them to stay away from the alleged victim, the offense is bumped up to a felony known as aggravated stalking.
Aggravated stalking, like other felony offenses, is profound. If you are dealing with such charges, you could spend many years in jail if convicted. As such, you must defend yourself diligently in court with the help of experienced criminal lawyers in Lawrenceville.
In the meantime, the information in this guide can help you understand the charge you’re dealing with so you can take the necessary steps to secure your freedom.
Elements of Aggravated Stalking Under the Georgia Code
The offense of aggravated stalking is essentially an elevated form of stalking. So, to understand aggravated stalking, it is important to first look into the components of stalking as defined under the Georgia Code.
A person commits stalking in Georgia if they do any of the following without the victim’s consent:
Follows the victim
Places them under surveillance
Contacts them in any place or at any time
These acts must be done to harass and intimidate the victim. The law interprets “harassing and intimidating” in this context to mean any wilful conduct that causes the victim emotional distress by making them reasonably afraid for their safety or that of their loved ones.
Stalking also occurs when a person against whom there is an existing temporary or permanent protective order publishes the protected person’s name and contact information, leading to harassment from third parties. Here, the defendant does not need to contact or follow the victim physically for stalking to occur. It is enough that the defendant set the victim up for harassment and intimidation by empowering others to do the harassing on their behalf.
Aggravated stalking involves elements from the two kinds of stalking described above. An aggravated stalking charge typically alleges the following:
There is an existing temporary protective order, bond to keep the peace, good behavior bond, permanent injunction, condition of probation/parole or condition of pretrial release, or any other restraining court order against the defendant and for the victim’s benefit.
The order in question prohibits acts of stalking.
The defendant violated the active court order by contacting, following, or placing the victim under surveillance without their consent.
The prosecution may establish you committed aggravated stalking by showing a pattern of intimidation and harassment from the defendant towards the victim over time. But in some cases, one contact incident may be enough to ground a conviction.
Under such restraining orders, you must comply with the set terms. Otherwise, you risk facing aggravated stalking charges and the harsh penalties that follow a conviction.
Penalties for Aggravated Stalking
Aggravated stalking is a serious crime punishable by imprisonment for between one to ten years and a fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction.
The judge may also issue a permanent restraining order to protect the victim and their immediate family.
Before deciding on the sentence but after conviction, the judge may require the person convicted to undergo a psychological evaluation. The evaluation results and the defendant’s criminal history would determine the nature and length of the sentence.
Other Consequences of an Aggravated Stalking Conviction
An aggravated stalking conviction could ruin a person’s reputation and affect the quality of their life even after completing their sentence. For instance, if the defendant is a second or subsequent aggravated stalking offender, the law requires the court clerk to publish a legal notice of conviction where the case was tried.
According to the Georgia Code, the notice must contain the following details:
A photograph of the convict taken by the police at the time of the arrest
The date, time, and place of arrest
The outcome of the case
This notice alerts everyone around to the defendant’s convicted status, which could lead to shunning by society.
Also, as aggravated stalking is a felony, convicts’ conviction records are available to the public without the convict’s consent. This could affect their ability to reintegrate into society or secure employment after serving their sentence.
The consequences of an aggravated stalking conviction are very unpleasant and far-reaching. If you face such charges, you must defend yourself diligently to avoid a conviction. Yes, it is the prosecution’s job to prove the charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt. But it is your job to disprove the prosecution’s evidence and establish doubt in the jury’s minds.
Possible Defenses to an Aggravated Stalking Charge
Like other criminal charges, certain legal defenses could help a person facing aggravated stalking charges walk free if established successfully. They include the following:
The victim may have incorrectly identified the supposed stalker. A defendant can avoid a conviction by disproving their identification as the culprit. In that case, it is left for the law enforcement officials to find the actual offender.
From the elements of the offense, as discussed earlier, it is evident that stalking or aggravated stalking charges are based on a lack of consent on the victim’s part. If the defendant can show that the “offending” acts were done with the victim’s permission, there may be no basis for a conviction. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the victim never consented to the acts.
The prosecution must prove aggravated stalking elements to secure a conviction. If they cannot establish the alleged stalker contacted, followed, or placed the victim under surveillance repeatedly without their permission, there exists insufficient evidence for an aggravated stalking charge.
Violation of Civil Rights
In certain situations, law enforcement officials may coerce or force confessions from defendants in aggravated stalking cases. This violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects all citizens against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement officers. You could be acquitted of the charges if you prove that your rights were violated during your arrest or trial.
Under the Georgia Code, persons engaged in protected activities such as law enforcement or other lawful business or professional activities are not liable for stalking where the acts complained of were done in the course of their duties.
There are other legal defenses for aggravated stalking offenses not mentioned here. The circumstance in which each defense is appropriate varies, so unless you have extensive criminal defense knowledge, attempting to establish a suitable defense on your own could be problematic. Instead, consider getting a skilled criminal defense attorney to defend you and pursue a positive outcome on your behalf.
Get Help With Your Georgia Aggravated Stalking Charges at Philip Kim Law, P.C.
Do you have further questions about your stalking or aggravated stalking charge or need a formidable legal defender? Contact Philip Kim Law, P.C., for help and answers that could turn things around for the better.
Our experienced criminal defense attorney is waiting to assess your case, represent you, and help you navigate the criminal justice system to improve your chances of success.
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