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Stalking Laws and Charges in the State of Washington

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As we live in an increasingly interconnected world, it is easier to be accused of stalking now than ever before. Washington has some of the strictest stalking laws in the United States, levying fines and jail time against people who are convicted of this crime. 

If you are convicted of stalking, you can face serious penalties. The victim may also be able to file a protection order against you. The best thing you can do if you are accused of stalking is to contact a criminal defense attorney who can handle your case. 

Stalking Laws in Washington State

Stalking is a pattern of malicious behavior intended to scare or frighten the victim. According to RCW 9A.46.110, Washington law defines stalking as intentional and repeated harassment or following of a victim that causes reasonable fear. The victim is in fear of bodily injury, injury to another person, or his or her property.

To be convicted of a stalking crime, the offender must intend to frighten, harass, or intimidate the victim or knows or should reasonably know that the acts would elicit this emotional response. The offender must not be someone who may have the legal authority to engage in these activities and was acting within the scope of his or her license, such as a licensed private investigator.

Below are a few examples of stalking behaviors:

  • Following someone throughout his or her daily activities
  • Leaving or sending unwanted gifts
  • Physical intimidation
  • Verbal threats and harassment
  • Spreading rumors about someone
  • Going through a person’s property or garbage
  • Hacking into someone’s email or social media
  • Sending unwanted texts, emails, or letters
  • Waiting or loitering outside of a home, school, or workplace

What Are the Penalties for Stalking in Washington?

Most stalking crimes are gross misdemeanors in Washington. These crimes are punishable by up to 364 days in county jail or a fine of up to $5,000. In some cases, the offender may face both imprisonment and fines.

If the case involves some sort of aggravating factor, the offender may be charged with a class C felony. These crimes are punishable by a maximum of five years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, or both.

Stalking crimes are elevated to a class C felony if the case involves any of the following:

  • The offender was previously convicted of harassing the same victim.
  • The offender was violating a protection order.
  • The offender was armed with a deadly weapon.
  • The victim is a public officer who was stalked in retaliation.
  • The victim is or was a witness to a crime who was stalked in retaliation.

What to Do If You Are Charged with Stalking in Washington

If you are accused of stalking in Washington, you can feel scared and overwhelmed. It is easy for certain behaviors to be misinterpreted or misconstrued. Despite this, the state often takes an aggressive approach to these cases. In these situations, you need an attorney on your side who can protect your rights and advocate for the best possible outcome.

An attorney can craft a compelling defense in your favor and advocate to have the charges against you reduced or dropped altogether. As soon as possible following your arrest, contact a Tacoma criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

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