Harassment and Stalking Criminal Charges in Memphis and Shelby County Tennessee
Harassment and Stalking charges can arise out of a variety of situations, but they usually involve people who already know each other. Most people may be familiar with the kinds of activity which make up stalking charges, such as physically following someone or harassing phone calls. However, abusing certain forms of technology such as social media, (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) or GPS tracking have recently been the basis of stalking charges as well. The severity of these charges will depend on factors such as whether this was your first offense, and the nature of your behavior. The biggest different between harassment and stalking is that the former can stem from one instance, whereas stalking consists of a series of events over time.
If you have been charged with either harassment or stalking, you should immediately contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can assist you in protecting your rights. Brooks Law firm has qualified attorneys willing to listen to your side of the story and help you make the right decision. Below is an overview of the law concerning harassment and stalking in Tennessee:
Memphis Criminal Defense Lawyers – Brooks Law Firm
Harassment, TCA 39-17-308: Harassment is legally defined as: “conduct directed toward a victim that includes repeated or continuing unconsented contact that would cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress, and that actually causes the victim to suffer emotional distress. Harassment does not include constitutionally protected activity or conduct that serves a legitimate purpose.” A person commits the offense of harassment when they:
- Threaten a person with harm;
- Annoy, offend, or frighten a person;
- Lie to a person by claiming a loved one has been injured; or
- Displays imagery or symbols as a means of a threat.
Harassment is a Class A misdemeanor. However, if the accused was incarcerated, on diversion, probation or parole, and harassed the victim of a crime committed by the harasser, it is a Class E felony. Defenses to harassment are limited, and usually involve arguing that the prosecution failed to meet their burden of proof or satisfy elements of the crime. This is why it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you in your case.
Stalking, TCA 39-17-315: Stalking is defined as “a willful course of conduct involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable person to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested, and that actually causes the victim to feel that way.” When their conduct fits the definition above, a person can commit stalking by:
- Following a person;
- Approaching or confronting a person on public or private property;
- Appearing at a person’s workplace or residence;
- Contacting a person by telephone;
- Sending a person mail, or any electronic communications, including: email, text messages, using web sites or social media; or
- Placing or delivering an object on property owned, leased, or occupied by another.
Stalking is a Class A misdemeanor. Stalking is a Class E felony if the defendant, at the time of the offense, was required to or was registered as a sexual offender. Additionally, there are varying degrees of stalking, as outlined below:
Aggravated Stalking is a Class E felony. A person commits stalking which is aggravated if, in addition to stalking someone, they also:
- Displayed a deadly weapon;
- Stalked someone less than eighteen years old;
- Have already been convicted of stalking in the past seven years;.
- Threatened the victim’s child or other loved one; or
- Contacted the victim while under a restraining order, order of protection, or any other court-imposed prohibition.
Especially Aggravated Stalking is a Class C felony. Stalking is considered especially aggravated when the accused:
- Stalks the same person of whom they were previously convicted of stalking; or
- Causes serious injury to the victim, their child or loved one.
Punishments and Fines: In addition to the fines and sentencing associated with stalking and harassment, Courts have wide discretion in what they can do to remedy the situation. While this helps judges to protect victims and their families, sometimes it can go too far. If you are convicted, depending on the level of the crime, the court can order you to:
- Refrain from having any contact with the victim, their children, or loved ones;
- Undergo psychiatric, psychological, or social counseling at your own expense;
- Be monitored to make sure you take any required medication;
- Submit to and pay for the use of an electronic tracking device.
Brooks Law Firm offers free initial consultations
Our attorneys understand how quickly a bad situation can lead to harassment or stalking charges. You may have been upset about something your loved one did, or perhaps someone you know is abusing the law to get back at you. Whether you think you are innocent or guilty, you should seek the advice of a qualified attorney who can listen to your story and explain your options so that you can take control of your case. Brooks Law Firm will work to find out whether defenses may apply. Was it clear that the person objected to your presence? Did your conduct meet the elements of the crime as required by the law? Did you have a legally defensible reason to behave in the way you did? We have asked these questions before, and we will work hard pay attention to every detail to get the best possible results.
Criminal harassment and stalking charges may often be associated with other, more serious charges. Conduct which may be dismissible may easily be elevated to misdemeanor or felony charges if you do not fight to protect your rights. This is why it is important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer capable of representing your side of the story. Misdemeanors are generally considered lower level crimes, but the effects should not be considered lightly. In addition to the potential for jail time and fines, misdemeanors can go on your permanent record and will show up on background checks. Employers may see your record and misjudge your character. Not only that, but the potential for jail time could affect your employment or interrupt your family life.
You do not have to plead guilty. However, prosecutors can be very aggressive in presenting their case against you. A qualified criminal defense lawyer will see whether prosecutors have proven their case, find out whether any defenses apply, and negotiate for the best solution, including the dismissal of all charges when possible.
Brooks Law Firm will navigate the legal process alongside you so that you can make the right decisions. Please call today for a free initial consultation.