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Can You Go to Jail for Stalking?

Can You Go to Jail for Stalking?

Can You Go to Jail for Stalking?

Stalking is considered a serious crime in all U.S. states and territories. Like many aspects of criminal law, stalking can be an intricate and confusing area of our legal system. In some cases, well-meaning people can commit such acts unintentionally due to a lack of knowledge.

Every relationship has its rough patches. In some cases, good intentions can lead to criminal charges. In South Carolina, stalking is a serious offense that can lead to life-altering consequences.

Whether you were charged with stalking due to a misunderstanding or simply because you were aware that your actions were in violation of state laws, it’s imperative to secure the support of an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide your steps and determine the most effective legal strategy to obtain a favorable result in court.

What Is Stalking?

Under South Carolina Code of Law §16-3-1700, stalking is defined as using a pattern of words or conduct that causes a person to fear at least one of the following:

  • Death
  • Assault
  • Bodily injury
  • Criminal sexual contact
  • Kidnapping
  • Property damage to the victim or victim’s family member

State law defines “pattern” as 2 or more acts within a 90-day period. Stalking is a versatile offense that can take various forms, including:

  • Unwanted calls, texts, or online contact
  • Unwanted gifts
  • Showing up unannounced or uninvited
  • Threats (in person or virtual/online)
  • Monitoring or surveillance
  • Following a person to/from their home, work, or other locations

Essentially, stalking is any behavior directed at a specific person that causes them to fear for their safety or suffer substantial emotional distress. Stalking does not have to entail threats of violence or harm to be considered valid.

Penalties for Stalking in South Carolina

The severity of penalties for stalking is dependent on various factors. Generally, a stalking conviction is a felony punishable by:

  • Up to 5 years in jail
  • Up to a $5,000 fine

However, the stakes are considerably heightened under a couple of conditions:

Violation of a Restraining Order

If the defendant committed the act(s) in violation of a restraining order, the stakes are also heightened. If convicted, the defendant can face increased penalties, including:

  • Up to 10 years in jail
  • Up to a $7,000 fine

Prior Convictions

The defendant may face harsher consequences if they have accrued prior stalking or harassment offenses. Assuming additional charges were accrued within the past 10 years, an offender can face enhanced penalties, including:

  • Up to 15 years in jail
  • Up to a $10,000 fine

Can you be convicted of stalking if it was a nonphysical and/or nonharmful act?

Yes, you can be convicted of stalking regardless of physical contact. The offense entails the actual act of stalking as opposed to the potential outcomes of that act, meaning that you will face consequences for your behavior alone. Evidence of injury or property damage as a result of your behavior isn't required to be charged with or convicted of stalking.

Legal Defenses for Stalking

While facing stalking charges can be scary, being convicted of stalking can inflict greater harm. A felony conviction can lead to harsh penalties and lifechanging consequences that aren’t limited to prison time. Felons can face additional repercussions that significantly impact their quality of life, such as:

  • Loss of voting rights
  • Inability to own a firearm
  • Inability to secure safe and affordable housing
  • Ineligibility for financial aid
  • Difficulties finding and retaining employment
  • Probation
  • Court-ordered course completion (such as anger management)
  • Confinement to a mental health hospital

If you’re facing stalking charges, it’s absolutely crucial to secure the help of a skilled defense lawyer as soon as possible. Only an experienced legal advisor with a comprehensive knowledge of criminal law can establish the best legal strategy to employ in your defense.

Even in a worst-case scenario, your attorney may be able to reduce the severity of your sentence or negotiate a plea deal on your behalf to keep you out of prison for years or even decades.

There are various legal defenses that your lawyer may use to protect your rights in court, including (but not limited to):

  • Lack of credible threat. To be convicted of stalking, the defendant must have posed a credible threat to the victim. If your lawyer can successfully argue that this was not the case, this may be an effective defense.
  • False accusations. In some cases, an alleged victim may falsely accuse the defendant of stalking due to ulterior motives, such as vengeance. If this is the case, your defense attorney can work with you to collect and present evidence of those falsehoods to the court.
  • Alleged acts were protected under the Constitution. The defendant cannot be charged with a crime they didn’t commit. This may be the case if stalking charges were misapplied to a situation in which a defendant was exercising their First Amendment rights.
  • Lack of intent to cause fear. A key identifier of stalking is the intent to invoke fear. If a perceived threat lacks intention, this can be an effective legal strategy to employ in defense.

Aggressively Defending the Accused Since 2004

The Law Office of James R. Snell, Jr., LLC has forged a longstanding track record of success. Our mission is to provide our clients with the aggressive legal defense they rightfully deserve. Whether you made an honest mistake or were falsely accused of a crime, rest assured that our passionate criminal defense attorneys are here to protect your rights.

If you’re facing a criminal conviction in South Carolina, it’s essential to have the right legal team in your corner. When it comes to fighting for your freedom and future, choose experience you can trust. Our top-rated firm has a winning record in criminal defense and offers free consultations to provide our clients with the personalized attention and legal representation they need.

Accused of a crime in South Carolina? Take action now to protect your rights. Call (803) 359-3301 or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation.


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