Can I Be Charged With Stalking

Stalking charges can carry significant consequences. In the legal realm, being charged with stalking could result in jail-time, hefty court fines, being ordered to participate in a rehabilitation program, and more. Furthermore, stalking charges can affect your employment, your reputation, and even your ability to possess and carry a handgun. If you’ve been charged with stalking or have concerns that someone may press stalking charges against you, it is imperative that you hire a criminal defense attorney. Best & Brock’s experienced attorneys guide clients through pre-arrest investigations, pre-trial negotiations, and trial proceedings with an individual and assertive approach. Reach out by calling us or by filling out our online contact form to set up a FREE consultation!

Garth Best was extremely helpful in my case. He explored and explained everything to me clearly and never stopped checking out every option. I am absolutely grateful I chose him as my attorney. Best and Brock are a great choice for representation. Thanks again.

- Jeremy Forgey

Matt Brock did an outstanding job with my case. Very thorough and knowledgeable attorney, highly recommended. Its very obvious through my interactions with him that he has the experience and knowledge to win in court. I will not go anywhere else. Great job, much appreciated.

- Chris Griffin

How does the state of Tennessee define stalking?

Stalking is defined under T.C.A. §39-17-315 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 terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested.” This long definition may be confusing, so let’s break it down!

A willful course of conduct requires a series of two or more separate acts demonstrating a continuity of purpose. This means a defendant’s acts of following, monitoring, observing, surveilling, threatening, or communicating with a person must be repeated to constitute a course of conduct. The exception to this is when a defendant places an electronic tracking device, without the consent of the person being tracked, on that person or their property – in this case, a singular act can constitute stalking under Tennessee law.

Harassment is defined as conduct directed toward a victim including repeated or continuing non-consensual contact, which would (and does) cause a reasonable person to suffer emotional distress. While harassment is not strictly limited to these repeated contacts, most instances of harassment will involve repeated, non-consensual communication by a defendant to a distressed victim. Contact is considered unconsented when it is initiated or continued without the victim’s consent, or in disregard of the victim’s expressed desire to avoid such contact (i.e., physically following the victim, appearing at the victim’s workplace, calling or texting the victim, or delivering objects to the victim’s property or residence). A victim may provide additional evidence or testify that the harassment caused them to feel frightened or intimidated, however simply proving that the victim requested that the contact be discontinued is sufficient to establish the victim’s emotional distress.

Stalking, as you can tell from its definition, covers a broad range of unlawful behaviors in the state of Tennessee. Stalking can manifest as the stereotypical behavior of following a person around, lurking at their residence, and leaving notes for them that we are accustomed to seeing in the media. However, stalking can also be repeatedly calling or texting a person, even on social media.

It is imperative, if someone indicates to you that they do not wish to maintain contact, that you cease all communications with them. Attempting to resume or continue contact against another person’s will could result in you being charged with stalking in Tennessee.

So, what are the penalties for stalking in Tennessee?

Stalking is generally a Class A misdemeanor in the state of Tennessee. This means it is punishable by up to 11 months, 29 days incarceration, a fine not to exceed $2,500, or both. The court may also order individuals convicted of stalking to participate in batterer’s intervention courses, counseling, community service, and more.  In certain circumstances, though, stalking will be punished as a Class E felony. If the defendant was registered or required to register on the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation’s sex offender registry, stalking can be punished by one to six years imprisonment and/or a fine not to exceed $3,000.

The act of stalking may also constitute aggravated stalking, a Class E felony in Tennessee, if the defendant displays a deadly weapon or makes a credible threat to the victim during the course of conduct. Aggravated stalking also includes cases wherein the victim was less than 18 years old (and the defendant is at least five years older than the victim), or when the victim was 65 years or older at the time of the stalking. Furthermore, a defendant can be convicted of aggravated stalking if they have previously been convicted of stalking, however this only counts if the conviction was within 7 years of the instant offense.

The final criteria for aggravated stalking is if the defendant was prohibited from making contact with the victim under a restraining order, order of protection, or other court-imposed prohibition of contact. Because the defendant was under court orders not to contact the victim in this scenario, they may also be charged with violating the order of protection that was in place. Aggravated stalking becomes especially aggravated stalking if the defendant causes serious bodily injury to the victim or the victim’s family member, if the defendant has been previously convicted of stalking the same victim, or if the victim was less than twelve years old during the course of conduct. Especially aggravated stalking is a Class C felony punishable by anywhere from three to fifteen years imprisonment, as well as up to $10,000 in court-ordered fines. A person convicted of stalking can be placed on probation instead of, or along with, a prison sentence. In this event, the court is authorized to order the defendant to refrain from having contact with the victim and the victim’s family.

The court can also order the defendant to be evaluated to determine if there is a need for counseling, which the court can then order the defendant to complete. The court can pair this mental health treatment with a requirement to take any necessary medications, at the defendant’s own expense. To ensure the defendant takes their medication as prescribed, defendants may even have to submit to regular drug testing or other monitoring methods. Perhaps the most restrictive element of probation for individuals convicted of stalking is that the court may also order the defendant to submit to wearing a tracking device, the cost of which must be paid by the defendant themself.

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Possible Repercussions on Your Ability to Own and Carry a Handgun

Stalking charges and convictions carry not only the potential of jail time and court fines, but also restrictions on your ability to possess and carry a handgun.  Under federal law, it is illegal for a person convicted of a felony to possess a handgun. Furthermore, it is also illegal for someone under a court order prohibiting them from stalking an intimate partner or their child to be sold a firearm or engage in foreign/interstate commerce involving firearms. (See 18 U.S.C. § 922 and our blog on how to have your handgun rights restored for more details).

Even if you are legally allowed to possess a handgun in Tennessee after being convicted of stalking, you can still be denied a handgun carry permit. T.C.A. § 39-17-1351(c)(18) requires that applicants for an enhanced handgun carry permit have never been convicted of stalking in order to be eligible for a permit. For a deeper dive, check our blog on carrying a firearm in Tennessee after catching criminal charges!

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You Need a Criminal Defense Team on your Side!

With all that’s at stake following a stalking charge, you must protect your future by hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney. Let Best & Brock stand by you through pre-arrest investigations, court proceedings, and post-court resolutions. You deserve the Best